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Professor of the English Laxguage and Literature in 
Yale University 



copyrioht, 1906 
By albert S. cook 


gtie iatfttnaum jgreaa 







The issue of Stevenson's long and eagerly expected 
edition of Asser's Life of King Alfred has provided an 
opportunity to supply the ever increasing number of the 
great king's admirers with a more satisfactory rendering 
into English of this, perhaps the most precious document, 
notwithstanding all its faults, for the comprehension of his 
life and character. 

The authenticity of the Life was impugned by Thomas 
Wright in 1841, by Sir Henry Howorth in 1876-77, and 
by an unknown writer in 1898, and it had become somewhat 
the fashion to regard it as a production of a later period, 
and therefore entitled to but little credence. The doubts 
as to its authenticity have been satisfactorily dispelled by 
the two eminent scholars who have most recently discussed 
the difficulties, Plummer and Stevenson. 

The former, in his Life and Times of Alfred the Great, 
Oxford, 1902, says (p. 52) : ' The work which bears 
Asser's name cannot be later than 974, and the attempt to 
treat it as a forgery of the eleventh or twelfth century 
must be regarded as having broken down. I may add that 
I started with a strong prejudice against the authenticity 
of Asser, so that my conclusions have at any rate been 
impartially arrived at.' The latter, in his noble edition 
(Oxford, 1904), remarks (p. vii) : ' In discussing the work 
I have attempted to approach it without any bias for or 
against it, and throughout my endeavor has been to subject 
every portion of it to as searching an examination as 


my knowledge and critical powers would permit. The net 
result has been to convince me that, although there may be 
no very definite proof that the work was written by Bishop 
Asser in the lifetime of King Alfred, there is no anach- 
ronism or other proof that it is a spurious compilation 
of later date. The serious charges brought against its 
authenticity break down altogether under examination, 
while there remain several features that point with vary- 
ing strength to the conclusion that it is, despite its difficul- 
ties and corruptions, really a work of the time it purports 
to be. This result is confirmed by the important corrobo- 
ration of some of its statements by contemporary Frankish 
chroniclers. Thus the profession of belief in its authen- 
ticity by such eminent historians as Kemble, Pauli, Stubbs, 
and Freeman agrees with my own conclusion.' 

Notwithstanding their general rehabilitation of the work, 
however, neither critic is prepared to trust it implicitly. 
Plummer says (p. 62) : ' On the whole, then, Asser is an 
authority to be used with criticism and caution ; partly 
because we have always to be alive to the possibility of 
interpolation, partly because the writer's Celtic imagination 
is apt to run away with him.' And thus Stevenson (p. cxxx): 
' The work still presents some difficulties. Carelessness of 
transcription may possibly explain those that are merely 
verbal, but there still remain certain passages that lay the 
author open to the charge of exaggeration, such as his men- 
tion of gold-covered and silver-covered buildings, if that be 
the literal meaning of the passage, and his statement that 
Alfred might, if he had chosen, have been king before his 
elder brother ^thelred, with whom, it is clear, he was on 
most intimate terms.' 

The style of the book is not uniform. The passages 
translated from the Chronicle are simpler, while in the 
more original parts the author displays an unfortunate 
tendency to a turgid and at times bombastic manner of 


writing. Indeed, it displays, in many passages, the traits of 
that Hesperic Latinity which, invented or made fashion- 
able in the sixth century, probably by a British monk in 
the southwestern part of England, was more or less current 
in England from the time of Aldhelm until the Norman 
Conquest. This Hesperic, or Celtic, Latinity has been com- 
pared to the mock euphuism of Sir Piercie Shafton in 
Scott's Monastery (Professor H. A. Strong, in Amencan 
Journal of Philology 26. 205), and may be illustrated by 
Professor Strong's translation into English of certain sen- 
tences from the Hisperica Famina, the production, as it is 
believed, of the monk referred to above : * This precious 
shower of words glitters, by no awkward barriers confining 
the diction, and husbands its strength by an exquisite bal- 
ance and by equable device, trilling sweet descant of 
Ausonian speech through the speaker's throat by this 
shower of words passing through Latin throats ; just as 
countless swarms of bees go here and there in their hollow 
hives, and sip the honey-streams in their homes, and set in 
order, as they are wont, their combs with their beaks.' 

With the passage just quoted may be compared an extract 
from chapter 88 of Asser, the translation of which is given 
below (pp. 49, 50) : ' Ac delude cotidie inter nos sermo- 
cinando, ad hgec investigando aliis inventis seque placabi- 
libus testimoniis, quaternio ille refertus succrevit, nee 
immerito, sicut scriptum est, "super modicum fundamen- 
tum aedificat Justus et paulatim ad majora defluit," velut 
apis fertilissima longe lateque gronnios interrogando dis- 
currens, multimodos divinae scripturae flosculos inhianter 
et incessabiliter congregavit, quis prsecordii sui cellulas 
densatim replevit.' Such Latin as this is difficult to trans- 
late into satisfactory English, If one renders it literally, 
the result is apt to look rather absurd ; and beyond a cer- 
tain point condensation is impracticable, or else misrepre- 
sents the original, faults and merits alike. 


Hitherto there have been three translations of Asser into 
English — that by J. A. Giles in Bohn's Six Old English 
Chronicles, London, 1848; that by Joseph Stevenson in 
Church Historians of England, Vol. 2, London, 1854 ; and 
that by Edward Conybeare, Alfred in the Chroniclers, 
London, 1900. As the basis of my work I have taken the 
translation of Giles, sometimes following it rather closely, 
and at other times departing from it more or less widely. 

The reader familiar with the traditional Asser will miss 
some matter with which he is familiar, such as the story of 
Alfred and the cakes, that of the raven-banner of the Danes, 
etc. These are derived from interpolations made in the 
manuscript by Archbishop Parker, which modern critical 
scholarship has at length excised. For all matters regard- 
ing the manuscript, the earlier editions, etc, as well as for 
copious illustrative notes on the text, the reader is referred 
to Stevenson's edition. 

Insertions made in the text by Stevenson, on what he 
considers sufficient grounds, are indicated by < >. The 
chapter-divisions and -numbering are Stevenson's ; the 
chapter-headings mine. Where modern forms of proper 
names exist, I have not hesitated to adopt them, and in 
general have tended rather to normalize them than scrupu- 
lously to follow the sometimes various spellings of the text. 
The notes have almost always been derived from Steven- 
son's edition, whether or not explicit acknowledgment has 
been made, but now and then, as in the case of the long 
note on chapter 56, are my own, 

Yale University 

July 4, 1905 



Alfred's Birth and Genealogy 

Genealogy of Alfred's Mother . 

The Danes at Wicganbeorg and Sheppey 

The Danes sack Canterbury 

Battle of Aclea ..... 

Defeat of the Danes at Sandwich 

^thelwulf assists Burgred 

Alfred at Rome ..... 

Other Events of 853 ... . 

The Heathen winter in Sheppey 

vEthelwulf journeys to Rome 

Rebellion of ^Ethelbald . 

Judith's Position in Wessex . 

Offa and Eadburh .... 

Eadburh's Further Life .... 

^thelwulf's Will .... 

^thelbald marries Judith 

^thelbert's Reign .... 

-^thelbert's Death .... 

The Danes in Kent .... 

^thelred's Accession .... 

AKred's Rearing . . 

Alfred and the Book of Saxon Poems . 

Alfred's Handbook .... 

Alfred's Love of Learning 

The Danes occupy York 

Defeat of the Northumbrians 

Death of Ealhstan .... 



. 3 

. 5 



29. Alfred marries ...... 

30. The Danes at Nottingham 

31. The Danes at York 

32. The Danes at Thetford .... 

33. The Danes triumph ..... 

34. Ceolnoth dies ... 

35. The Danes defeated at Englefield . 

36. Battle of Reading ..... 

37. Battle of Ashdown 

38. Alfred begins the Attack .... 

39. The Heathen Rout and Loss 

40. Battle of Basing 

41. JEthelred's Death 

42. Alfred comes to the Throne ; Battle of Wilton 

43. Peace made ....... 

44. The Heathen winter in London 

45. The Heathen winter in Lindsey . 

46. The Danes in Mercia .... 

47. The Danes in North umbria and Cambridge . 

48. Alfred's Battle at Sea .... 

49. Movements of the Danes .... 

50. Halfdene partitions Northumbria 

51. Division of Mercia ..... 

52. The Danes at Chippenham 

53. Alfred in Somersetshire .... 

54. The Danes defeated at Cynwit . 

55. Alfred at Athelney ..... 

56. Battle of Edington, and Treaty with Guthrum 

57. The Danes go to Cirencester .... 

58. Danes at Fulham ..... 

59. An Eclipse 

60. The Danes in East Anglia 

61. The Smaller Army leaves England 

62. The Danes fight with the Franks 

63. The Danes on the Meuse .... 

64. Alfred's Naval Battle with the Danes 



65. The Danes at Cond6 

66. Deliverance of Rochester ..... 

67. AKred's Naval Battle at the Mouth of the Stour 

68. Death of Carloman, of Louis 11, and of Louis III 

69. The Danes in Old Saxony .... 

70. Charles, King of the Alemanni .... 

71. Death of Pope Marinus .... 

72. The Danes break their Treaty .... 

73. Asser makes a New Beginning 
74:. Alfred's Maladies 

75. Alfred's Children and their Education . 

76. Alfred's Varied Pursuits 

77. Alfred's Scholarly Associates: Werfrith, Plegmund, 

^thelstan, and Werwulf . 

78. Grimbald and John, the Old Saxon . 

79. Asser's Negotiations with King Alfred . 

80. The Welsh Princes who submit to Alfred . 

81. How Alfred rewards Submission . 

82. The Siege of Paris ..... 

83. Alfred rebuilds London 

84. The Danes leave Paris .... 

85. Division of the Empire .... 

86. Alfred sends Alms to Rome 

87. Alfred begins to translate from Latin . 

88. Alfred's Manual 

89. Alfred's Handbook .... 

90. Illustration from the Penitent Thief 

91. Alfred's Troubles 

92. Alfred builds Two Monasteries 

93. Monasticism was decayed 

94. Monks brought from beyond Sea 

95. A Crime committed at Athelney . 

96. The Plot of a Priest and a Deacon . 

97. The Execution of the Plot . 

98. The Convent at Shaftesbury 

99. Alfred divides his Time and his Revenues 




100. The Threefold Division of Officers at Court . . 59 

101. The Distribution for Secular Purposes . . .59 

102. The Distribution for Religious Purposes . . 60 

103. Alfred's Dedication of Personal Service . . .61 

104. Alfred's Measure of Time 61 

105. Alfred judges the Poor with Equity . . . .63 

106. His Correction of Unjust and Incompetent Judges . 63 


Appendix I : Alfred's Preface to his Translation of 
Gregory's Pastoral Care . . . . . 69 

Appendix II : Letter from Fulco, Ai'chbishop of Rheims, 
to Alfred 72 



To my lord Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, the worshipful and 
pious ruler of all Christians in the island of Britain, Asser, least 
of all the servants of God, wisheth thousandfold prosperity for 
both lives, according to the desires of his heart. 

1. Alfred's Birth and Genealogy.^ — In the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 849, Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, 
was born at the royal vill of Wantage, in Berkshire (which 
receives its name from Berroc Wood, where the box- 
tree grows very abundantly). His genealogy is traced in 
the following order : King Alfred was the son of King 
^thelwulf ; he of Egbert; he of Ealhmund; h.e of Eafa; 
he of Eoppa; he of Ingild. Ingild and Ine, the famous 
king of the West Saxons, were two brothers. Ine went to 
Kome, and there ending the present life honorably, entered 
into the heavenly fatherland to reign with Christ. Ingild 
and Ine were the sons of Coenred ; he of Ceolwald ; he of 
Cutha^ ; he of Cuthwine ; he of Ceawlin ; he of Cynric ; he 
of Creoda; he of Cerdic; he of Elesa; <he of Esla;> he of 
Gewis, from whom the Welsh name all that people Ge- 
gwis ^ ; <he of Wig ; he of Freawine ; he of Freothegar ;> he 

1 Based on the Chronicle under 855. 

2 MS. Cudam. So always, but see the Chronicle. 

8 Bede, Eccl. Hist. 3. 7 : ' The West Saxons, formerly called 
Gewissae.' Plummer comments in his edition, 2. 89 : ' It is probably 
connected with the "visi" of "Visigoths," meaning "west," and 
hence would indicate the western confederation of Saxon tribes ; 
. . . "Gewis" is probably an eponymous hero manufactured out of 
the tribe-name.' The gw of Gegvxis is a Welsh peculiarity (Stevenson). 



of Brond ; he of Beldeag ; he of Woden ; he of Frithowald ; 
he of Frealaf ; he of Frithuwulf ; he of Finn<; he of> God- 
wulf ; he of Geata, which Geta the heathen long worshiped 
as a god. Sedulius makes mention of him in his metrical 
Paschal Poem, as follows : 

If heathen poets rave o'er fancied woe, 

While in a tui-gid stream their numbers flow — 

Whether the tragic buskin tread the stage, 

Or waggish Geta all our thoughts engage ; 

If by the art of song they still revive 

The taint of ill, and bid old vices live ; 

If monumental guilt they sing, and lies 

Commit to books in magisterial wise ; 

Why may not I, who list to David's lyre. 

And reverent stand amid the hallowed choir, 

Hymn heavenly things in words of tranquil tone. 

And tell the deeds of Christ in accents all my own? 

This Geata was the son of Tsetwa ; he of Beaw ; he of 
Sceldwea ; he of Heremod ; he of Itermod ; he of Hathra ; 
he of Hwala ; he of Bedwig ; he of Sceaf ^ ; he of Noah ; he 
of Lamech ; he of Methuselah ; he of Enoch ; <he of Jared> ; 
he of Mahalalel ; he of Kenan^ ; he of Enosh ; he of Seth ; 
he of Adam. 

2. Genealogy of Alfred's Mother.^ — The mother of Alfred 
was named Osburh, an extremely devout woman, noble 
in mind, noble also by descent ; she was daughter to Oslac, 
the famous cupbearer of King ^thelwulf. This Oslac 

1 MS., Stev. Seth (but Stevenson suggests Sceaf in his variants, 
referring to the Chronicle under 855). 

2 MS. Cainan, but see Gen. 5. 12 in R. V. 

» Partly from the Chronicle, but the whole account of Alfred's father 
and mother is original. 


was a Goth by nation, descended from the Goths and 
Jutes — of the seed, namely, of Stuf and Wihtgar, two 
brothers and ealdormen. They, having received possession 
of the Isle of Wight from their uncle, King Cerdic, and 
his son Cynric their cousin,^ slew the few British inhabi- 
tants whom they could find in that island, at a place called 
Wihtgaraburg'^ ; for the other inhabitants of the island had 
either been slain or had escaped into exile. 

3. The Danes at Wicganbeorg and Sheppey.* — In the year 
of our Lord's incarnation 851, which was the third of King 
Alfred's life, Ceorl, Ealdorman of Devon, fought with the 
men of Devon against the heathen at a place called Wicgan- 
beorg,* and the Christians gained the victory. In that same 
year the heathen first wintered in the island called Sheppey, 
which means ' Sheep-island,' situated in the river Thames 
between Essex and Kent, though nearer to Kent than to 
Essex, and containing a fair monastery.^ 

4. The Danes sack Canterbury.^ — The same year a great 
army of heathen came with three hundred and fifty ships 
to the mouth of the river Thames, and sacked Dorubernia, 
or Canterbury,''' <and also London) (which lies on the north 
bank of the river Thames, on the confines of Essex and 
Middlesex, though in truth that city belongs to Essex) ; 
and they put to flight Beorhtwulf, King of Mercia, with all 
the army which he had led out to oppose them. 

1 From the Chronicle under 630 and 634. 

2 Unidentified. 

• From the Chronicle. 

* Possibly Wigborough, in the parish of South Petherton in Somer- 
setshire (Stevenson). 

5 Minster in Sheppey, founded by St. Sexburh in the seventh 
century ; it disappeared during the Danish ravages (Stevenson). 
8 From the Chronicle. 
' MS. CarUwariorum civUatem ; Chron. Cantwaraburg. 


5. Battle of Aclea.^ — Having done these things there, the 
aforesaid heathen host went into Surrey, which is a shire 
situated on the south shore of the river Thames, and to the 
west of Kent. And ^thelwulf. King of the Saxons, and his 
son -^thelbald, with the whole army, fought a long time 
against them at a place called Aclea,^ that is, ' Oak-plain ' ; 
there, after a lengthy battle, which was fought with much 
bravery on both sides, the most part of the heathen horde 
was utterly destroyed and slain, so that we never heard of 
their being so smitten, either before or since, in any region, 
in one day *; and the Christians gained an honorable victory, 
and kept possession of the battle-field. 

6. Defeat of the Danes at Sandwich.* — In that same year 
-^thelstan and Ealdorman Ealhere slew a large army of 
the heathen in Kent, at a place called Sandwich, and took 
nine ships of their fleet, the others escaping by flight. 

7. iffithelwulf assists Burgred. ^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 853, which was the fifth of King Alfred's life, 
Burgred, King of the Mercians, sent messengers to beseech 
JEthelwulf, King of the West Saxons, to come and help 
him in reducing to his sway the inhabitants of Mid-Wales, 
who dwell between Mercia and the western sea, and who 
were struggling against him beyond measure. So without 
delay King ^thelwulf, on receipt of the embassy, moved 
his army, and advanced with King Burgred against AVales ® ; 

1 Based upon the Chronicle. 

2 Stevenson is inclined to reject this customary identification with 
Oakley, in Surrey. 

3 The source — the Chronicle — says : ' And there made the greatest 
slaughter among the heathen army that we have heard reported to the 
present day.' 

* From the Chronicle. 

6 Mainly from the Chronicle. 

6 The ' North Welsh ' of the Chronicle. 


and immediately upon his entrance he ravaged it, and 
reduced it under subjection to Burgred. This being done, 
he returned home. 

8. Alfred at Rome.^ — In that same year King ^thelwulf 
sent his above-named son Alfred to Kome, with an honor- 
able escort both of nobles and commoners. Pope Leo at 
that time presided over the apostolic see, and he anointed 
as king ^ the aforesaid child ' Alfred in the town, and, adopt- 
ing him as his son, confirmed him.* 

9. Other Events of 853.^ — That same year also, Ealdorman 
Ealhere with the men of Kent, and Huda with the men of 
Surrey, fought bravely and resolutely against an army of the 
heathen in the island which is called Tenet® in the Saxon 
tongue, but Ruim in the Welsh language. At first the 
Christians were victorious. The battle lasted a long time ; 
many fell on both sides, and were drowned in the water ; 
and both the ealdormen were there slain. In the same year 
also, after Easter, ^Ethelwulf, King of the West Saxons, 
gave his daughter to Burgred, King of the Mercians, as his 
queen, and the marriage was celebrated in princely wise at 
the royal vill of Chippenham. 

1 Based upon the Chronicle. 

2 MS. in regem. ^ MS. infantem. 

* ' A letter from the pope to Alfred's father, regarding the ceremony 
at Rome, has been fortimately preserved for us in a twelfth-century 
collection of papal letters, now in the British Museum. . . . The letter 
is as follows : '■'•Edeluulfo, regi Anglorum [marginal direction for rubri- 
cator]. <F> ilium vestrum Erf red, quem hoc in tempore ad Sanctorum 
Apostolorum limina destinare curastis, benigne suscepimus, et, quasi 
spiritalem fllium consulatus cingulo <cinguli emend. Ewald) honore 
vestimentisque, ut mos est Romanis consulibus, decoravimus, eo quod in 
nostris se tradidit manibus" ' (Stevenson). The Chronicle has: '. . . 
consecrated him as king, and took him as bishop-son.' See p. 29. 

6 Based upon the Chronicle. ® Thanet. 


10. The Heathen winter in Sheppey.^ — In the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 855, which was the seventh of the afore- 
said king's life, a great army of the heathen spent the whole 
winter in the aforesaid island of Sheppey. 

11. JEthelwulf journeys to Rome.'^ — In that same year the 
aforesaid worshipful King Ji^thelwulf freed the tenth part^ 
of all his kingdom from every royal service and tribute, 
and offered it up as an everlasting grant to God the One and 
Three, on the cross of Christ, for the redemption of his 
own soul and those of his predecessors. In the same year 
he went to Rome with much honor ; and taking with him 
his son, the aforesaid King Alfred, a second time on the 
same journey, because he loved him more than his other 
sons, he remained there a whole year. After this he re- 
turned to his own country, bringing with him Judith, 
daughter of Charles, King of the Franks.* 

12. Rebellion of -Sithelbald.* — In the meantime, however, 
whilst King ^thelwulf was residing this short time beyond 
sea, a base deed was done in the western part of Selwood,® 
repugnant to the morals of all Christians. For King ^thel- 
bald, Ealhstan, Bishop of the church of Sherborne, and 
Eanwulf, Ealdorman of Somerset, are said to have formed • 
a conspiracy to the end that King ^thelwulf, on his return 
from Eome, should not again be received in his kingdom. 
This unfortunate occurrence, unheard-of in all previous ages, 
is ascribed by many to the bishop and ealdorman alone, 
since, say they, it resulted from their counsels. Many also 
ascribe it solely to the insolence of the king, because he 
was headstrong in this matter and in many other perversi- 
ties, as I have heard related by certain persons, and as was 

1 From the Chronicle. ^ Based upon the Chronicle. 

8 Charles the Bald. * Original, 

fi Comprising Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. 


proved by the result of that which followed. For on his 
return from Rome, ^Ethelwulf's son aforesaid, with all his 
counselors, or rather waylayers, attempted to perpetrate 
the crime of repulsing the king from his own kingdom ; 
but neither did God suffer it, nor did the nobles of all 
Wessex consent thereto. For to prevent this irremediable 
danger to Wessex of a war between father and son, or 
rather of the whole nation waging civil war more fiercely 
and cruelly from day to day, as they espoused the cause of 
the one or the other,— ;- by the extraordinary clemency of the 
father, seconded by the consent of all the nobles, the king- 
dom which had hitherto been undivided was parted between 
the two, the eastern districts being given to the father, and 
the western to the son. Thus where the father ought by 
just right to have reigned, there did his unjust and obsti- 
nate son bear rule ; for the western part of Wessex is 
always superior to the eastern. 

13. Judith's Position in Wessex.^ — When .^Ethelwulf , there- 
fore, returned from Rome, the whole nation, as was fitting, 
so rejoiced*^ in the arrival of the ruler that, if he had allowed 
them, they would have expelled his unruly son ^thelbald, 
with all his counselors, from the kingdom. But he, as I 
have said, acting with great clemency and prudent counsel, 
would not act in this way, lest the kingdom should be 
exposed to peril. He likewise bade Judith, daughter of 
King Charles, whom he had received from her father, take 
her seat by his own side on the royal throne, without any 
dispute or enmity from liis nobles even to the end of his 
life, though contrary to the perverse custom of that nation.^ 

1 Chiefly original. " From the Chronicle. 

* Prudentius of Troyes (in Annales Bertiniani, an. 856, ,ed. Waitz, 
p. 47), says of BLshop Hincmar : ' Earn . . . reginae nomine insignit, 
quod sibi suseque genti eatenus f uerat insuetum. ' 


For the nation of the West Saxons does not allow the 
queen to sit beside the king, nor to be called queen, but 
only the king's wife ; which refusal, or rather reproach, 
the chief persons of that land say arose from a certain 
headstrong and malevolent queen of the nation, who did 
all things so contrary to her lord and to the whole people 
that not only did the hatred which she brought upon her- 
self bring to pass her exclusion from the queenly throne, 
but also entailed the same corruption upon those who came 
after her, since, in consequence of the extreme malignity of 
that queen, all the inhabitants of the land banded them- 
selves together by an oath never in their lives to let any 
king reign over them who should bid his queen take her seat 
on the royal throne by his side. And because, as I think^ 
it is not known to many whence this perverse and detest- 
able custom first arose in Wessex, contrary to the custom 
of all the Germanic peoples, it seems to me right to explain 
it a little more fully, as I have heard it from my lord Alfred 
the truth-teller. King of the Anglo-Saxons, who often told 
me about it, as he also had heard it from many men 
of truth who related the fact, or, I should rather say, 
expressly preserved the remembrance of it. 

14. Offa and Eadburh.^ — There was in Mercia in recent 
times a certain valiant king, who was dreaded by all the 
neighboring kings and states. His name was Offa, and it 
was he who had the great dike made from sea to sea 
between Wales and Mercia.^ His daughter, named Eadburh, 
was married to Beorhtric, King of the West Saxons. The 
moment she had possessed herself of the king's good will, 
and practically the whole power of the realm, she began to 

1 Original. 

2 Offa's Dike ; it extended from the mouth of the Dee to that of the 


live tyrannically, after the manner of her father. Every 
man whom Beorhtric loved she would execrate, and would 
do all things hateful to God and man, accusing to the king 
all whom she could, thus depriving them insidiously either 
of life or of power. And if she could not obtain the king's 
consent, she used to take them off by poison, as is ascertained 
to have been the case with a certain young man beloved by 
the king, whom she poisoned, seeing that she could not 
accuse him to the king. It is said, moreover, that King 
Beorhtric unwittingly tasted of the poison, though the queen 
had intended to give it, not to him, but to the young man ; 
the king, however, was beforehand with him, and so both 

15. Eadburh's Further Life.* — King Beorhtric therefore 
being dead, the queen, since she could no longer remain 
among the Saxons, sailed beyond sea with countless treas- 
ures, and came to Charles,^ King of the Franks. As she 
stood before the dais, bringing many gifts to the king, Charles 
said to her : ' Choose, Eadburh, between me and my son, who 
stands with me on this dais.' She, without deliberation, fool- 
ishly replied : ' If I am to have my choice, I choose your son, 
because he is younger than you.' At which Charles smiled 
and answered : ' If you had chosen me, you should have had 
my son ; but since you have chosen him, you shall have 
neither me nor him.' However, he gave her a large convent 
of nuns, in which, having laid aside her secular habit, and 
assumed the dress worn by the nuns, she discharged the 
office of abbess for a few years. As she is said to have 
lived irrationally in her own country, so she appears to 
have acted much more so among a foreign people ; for, being 
finally caught in illicit intercourse with a man of her own 
nation, she was expelled from the monastery by order of 
1 Original. ^ Charlemagne. 


King Charles. Henceforward she lived a life of shame in 
poverty and misery until her death ; so that at last, accom- 
panied only by one slave, as I have heard from many who 
saw her, she begged her bread daily at Pavia,^ and so 
wretchedly died. 

16. iEthelwulf 8 Wm.2 — Now King ^thelwulf lived two 
years after his return from Rome ; during which, among 
many other good deeds of this present life, reflecting on his 
departure according to the way of all flesh, that his sons 
might not quarrel unreasonably after their father's death, 
he ordered a will or letter of instructions to be written,' 
in which he commanded that his kingdom should be duly 
divided between his two eldest sons ; his private heritage 
between his sons, his daughter, and his relatives ; and the 
money which he should leave behind him between his 
soul * and his sons and nobles. Of this prudent policy I 
have thought fit to record a few instances out of many for 
posterity to imitate, namely, such as are understood to 
belong principally to the needs of the soul ; for the others, 
which relate only to human stewardship, it is not necessary 

1 ' Pavia was on the road to Rome, and was hence frequented by 
English pilgrims on their journey to the latter' (Stevenson). The 
Chronicle says under 888 : ' Queen ^thelswith, who was King Alfred's 
sister, died ; and her body lies at Pavia. ' ' With this story of Eadburh's 
begging in that city we may compare the statement of St. Boniface, 
written about 747, as to the presence of English prostitutes or adulter- 
esses in the cities of Lombardy, Frankland, or Gaul (Diimmler, Epis- 
tolce Karolini ^vi 1. 355; Haddan and Stubbs, Councils 3. 381). At 
the date of this letter the Lombards still spoke their native Germanic 
tongue, and it is probable that as late as Eadburh's time it was still 
the predominant speech in Lombardy ' (Stevenson). 

2 Mostly original. 

* In Alfred's will {Cart. Sax. 2. 177. 9) he refers to this as ' AJ'ulfes 
cinges yrfegewrit ' (Stevenson). 

* That is, for the good of his soul. 


to insert in this little work, lest prolixity should create 
disgust in those who read or wish to hear. For the bene- 
fit of his soul, then, which he studied to promote in all 
things from the first flower of his youth, he directed that, 
through all his hereditary land, one poor man to every ten 
hides,^ either native or foreigner, should be supplied with 
food, drink, and clothing by his successors unto the final 
Day of Judgment ; on condition, however, that that land 
should still be inhabited both by men and cattle, and should 
not become deserted. He commanded also a large sum 
of money, namely, three hundred mancuses,'^ to be carried 
annually to Rome for the good of his soul, to be there 
distributed in the following manner : a hundred man- 
cuses in honor of St. Peter, especially to buy oil for the 
lights of that apostolic church on Easter Eve, and also at 
cockcrow; a hundred mancuses in honor of St. Paul, for 
the same purpose of buying oil for the church of St. Paul 
the apostle, to fill the lamps for Easter Eve and cock- 
crow ; and a hundred mancuses for the universal apostolic 

17. iEthelbald marries Judith.^ — But when King ^thel- 
wulf was dead <and buried at Winchester),* his son ^Ethel- 
bald, contrary to God's prohibition and the dignity of a 
Christian, contrary also to the custom of all the heathen,^ 
ascended his father's bed, and married Judith, daughter 
of Charles, King of the Franks, incurring much infamy 
from all who heard of it. During two years and a half of 

1 Lat. manentibus. 

2 A mancus was thirty pence, one-eighth of a pound. 
8 Original. 

* From Florence of Worcester. The Annals of St. Neots have: ' and 
buried at Steyning ' {Stemrugam). 
6 This last statement is incorrect. 


lawlessness he held after his father the government of the 
West Saxons. 

18. ^thelbert's Reign.^ — In the year of our Lord's incar- 
nation 860, which was the twelfth of King Alfred's life, 
<King> ^thelbald <died, and) was buried at Sherborne. 
His brother ^thelbert, as was right, added Kent, Surrey, 
and Sussex to his realm. In his days a great army of 
heathen came from the sea, and attacked and laid waste 
the city of Winchester. As they were returning laden 
with booty to their ships, Osric, Ealdorman of Hampshire, 
with his men, and Ealdorman ^thelwulf, with the men of 
Berkshire, faced them bravely. Battle was then joined in 
the town, and the heathen were slain on every side ; and 
finding themselves unable to resist, they took to flight like 
women, and the Christians held the battle-field. 

19. ^thelbert's Death.^ — So iEthelbert governed his 
kingdom five years in peace and love and honor; and 
went the way of all flesh, to the great grief of his subjects. 
He rests interred in honorable wise at Sherborne, by the 
side of his brother. 

20. The Danes in Kent.^ — In the year of our Lord's in- 
carnation 864 the heathen wintered in the isle of Thanet, 
and made a firm treaty with the men of Kent, who prom- 
ised them money for observing their agreement. In the 
meantime, however, the heathen, after the manner of foxes, 
burst forth with all secrecy from their camp by night, and 
setting at naught their engagements, and spurning the 
promised money — which they knew was less than they 

1 From the Chronicle under 860. As ^thelbert was already in pos- 
session of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, it should rather be said that he 
added "Wessex. 

2 From the Chronicle under 860. 

8 Chiefly from the Chronicle under 865 and 866. 


could get by plunder — they ravaged all the eastern coast 
of Kent. 

21. ,-3Ethelred's Accession.^ — In the year of our Lord's in- 
carnation 866, which was the eighteenth of King Alfred's 
life, ^thelred, brother of King -^thelbert, undertook the 
government of the West Saxon realm. The same year a 
great fleet of heathen came to Britain from the Danube,^ 
and wintered in the kingdom of the East Saxons, which 
is called in Saxon East Anglia ; and there they became in 
the main an army of cavalry. But, to speak in nautical i 
phrase, I will no longer commit my vessel to wave and 
sail, or steer my roundabout course at a distance from land 
through so many calamities of wars and series of years, but 
rather return to that which first prompted me to this task : 
that is to say, I think it right briefly to insert in this place 
the little that has come to my knowledge about the char- 
acter of my revered lord Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, 
during the years of infancy and boyhood. 

22. Alfred's Rearing.^ — He was extraordinarily beloved 
by both his father and mother, and indeed by all the peo- 
ple, beyond all his brothers ; in inseparable companionship 
with them he was reared at the royal court.* As he ad- 
vanced through the years of infancy and youth, he appeared 
more comely in person than his brothers, as in counte- 
nance, speech, and manners he was more pleasing than 
they. His noble birth and noble nature implanted in him 
from his cradle a love of wisdom above all things, even 
amid all the occupations of this present life ; but — with 
shame be it spoken ! — by the unworthy neglect of his 

1 The earlier part from the Chronicle. 

2 Probably meaning the mouths of the Rhine (Stevenson). 

3 Original. 

* Curto, a word showing Frankish influence. 


parents and governors he remained illiterate till he was 
twelve years old or more, though by day and night he was 
an attentive listener to the Saxon poems which he often 
heard recited, and, being apt at learning, kept them in his 
memory. He was a zealous practiser of hunting in all its 
branches, and followed the chase with great assiduity and 
success ; for his skill and good fortune in this art, and in 
all the other gifts of God, were beyond those of every one 
else, as I have often witnessed. 

23. Alfred and the Book of Saxon Poems.^ — Now on a cer- 
tain day his mother was showing him and his brothers a 
book of Saxon poetry, which she held in her hand, and 
finally said: 'Whichever of you can soonest learn this vol- 
ume, to him will I give it.' Stimulated by these words, or 
rather by divine inspiration, and allured by the beautifully 
illuminated letter at the beginning of the volume, (Alfred)^ 
spoke before all his brothers, who, though his seniors in 
age, were not so in grace, and answered his mother : < Will 
you really give that book to that one of us who can first 
understand and repeat it to you ? ' At this his mother 
smiled with satisfaction, and confirmed what she had 
before said: *Yes,' said she, 'that I will.' Upon this the 
boy took the book out of her hand, and went to his master 
and learned it by heart,^ whereupon he brought it back to 
his mother and recited it. 

24. Alfred's Handbook."— After this <he learned)^ the 
daily course, that is, the celebration of the hours, and 
afterwards certain Psalms, and many prayers, contained 
in a book ^ which he kept day and night in his bosom, as 

1 Original. Stevenson would refer this event to a date earlier than 
855. 2 From Florence of Worcester. 

' So Pauli and Stevenson interpret legit. 
* Original. e cf. chap. 88. 


I myself have seen, and always carried about with him, 
for the sake of prayer, through all the bustle and business 
of this present life. But, sad to relate, he could not gratify 
his ardent wish to acquire liberal art,^ because, as he was 
wont to say, there were at that time no good teachers in 
all the kingdom of the West Saxons.^ 

25. Alfred's Love of Learning.^ — This he would confess, 
with many lamentations and with sighs from the bottom 
of his heart, to have been one of his greatest difficulties 
and impediments in this present life, that when he was 
young and had leisure and capacity for learning, he had no 
masters ; but when he was more advanced in years, he was 
continually occupied, not to say harassed, day and night, 
by so many diseases unknown to all the physicians of this 
island, as well as by internal and external anxieties of 
sovereignty, and by invasions of the heathen by sea and 
land, that though he then had some store of teachers and 
writers,* it was quite impossible for him to study. But yet 
among the impediments of this present life, from child- 
hood to the present day [and, as I believe, even until his 
death],^ he has continued to feel the same insatiable desire. 

1 The liberal arts were seven, consisting of the trivium — grammar, 
logic, and rhetoric — and the quadrivium — arithmetic, geometry, 
music, and astronomy. This course of study was introduced in the 
sixth century. Asser here employs the singular, artem, which might 
be translated by ' education. ' 

2 See Alfred's own statement in Appendix I, p. 69. 
' Original. 

* Alfred says (Preface to the Pastoral Care) : 'Thanks be to 
Almighty God that we have any teachers among us now.' In this 
same Preface he mentions, among those who aided him in the trans- 
lation. Archbishop Plegmund, Bishop Asser, our author, and the two 
priests Grimbold and John. Cf. chaps. 77, 78, 79, 81, 88, and 
Appendix I, p. 71. ^ Stevenson brackets this clause. 


26. The Danes occupy York.^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 867, which was the nineteenth of the aforesaid 
King Alfred's life, the army of heathen before mentioned 
removed from East Anglia to the city of York, which is 
situated on the north bank of the river Humber, 

27. Defeat of the Northumbrians.^ — At that time a vio- 
lent discord arose, by the instigation of the devil, among 
the Northumbrians, as always is wont to happen to 
a people who have incurred the wrath of God. For the 
Northumbrians at that time, as I have said,^ had expelled 
their lawful king Osbert from his realm, and appointed a 
certain tyrant named ^Ua, not of royal birth, over the 
affairs of the kingdom. But when the heathen approached, 
by divine providence, and the furtherance of the common 
weal by the nobles, that discord was a little appeased, and 
Osbert and ^lla uniting their resources, and assembling 
an army, marched to the town of York. The heathen fled 
at their approach, and attempted to defend themselves 
within the walls of the city. The Christians, perceiving 
their flight and the terror they were in, determined to fol- 
low them within the very ramparts of the town, and to 
demolish the wall ; and this they succeeded in doing, since 
the city at that time was not surrounded by firm or strong 
walls. When the Christians had made a breach, as they 
had purposed, and many of them had entered into the city 
along with the heathen, the latter, impelled by grief and 
necessity, made a fierce sally upon them, slew them, routed 
them, and cut them down, both within and without the 
walls. In that battle fell almost all the Northumbrian 

1 Mostly from the Chronicle. 

2 This clause must refer to the first line of the chapter, as there is 
no previous mention of the Northumbrians. 


troops, and both the kings were slain ; the remainder, who 
escaped, made peace with the heathen. 

28. Death of Ealhstan.^ — In the same year, Ealhstan, 
Bishop of the church of Sherborne, went the way of all 
flesh, after he had honorably ruled his see fifty years ; and 
in peace he was buried at Sherborne. 

29. Alfred marries.^ — In the year of our Lord's incarna- 
tion 868, which was the twentieth of King Alfred's life, 
the aforesaid revered King Alfred, then occupying only 
the rank of viceroy (secundarii), betrothed^ and espoused 
a noble Mercian lady,* daughter of ^thelred, surnamed 
Mucin, Ealdorman of the Gaini.^ The mother of this 
lady was named Eadburh, of the royal line of Mercia, 
whom I often saw with my own eyes a few years before 
her death. She was a venerable lady, and after the decease 
of her husband remained many years a chaste widow, even 
till her own death. 

30. The Danes at Nottingham.^ — In that same year the 
above-named army of heathen, leaving Northumbria, invaded 
Mercia, and advanced to Nottingham, which is called in 
Welsh Tigguocobauc,'^ but in Latin ' The House of Caves,' 

1 From the Chronicle. ^ Original. 

3 ' Subarravit, formed from sub and arrha, represents literally the 
English verb wed, which refers to the giving of security upon the 
engagement of marriage. . . . [It] is glossed by beweddian in Napier's 
Old English Glosses '' (Stevenson). 

* William of Malmesbury calls her ^thelswith. 
5 Of the Gaini nothing is known. 

* Largely from the Chronicle. 

■^ 'A compound of tig (Modern Welsh ty, "house"), and guocobauc 
(Modern Welsh gogofawg), an adjective derived from gogof, "cave." 
. . . The name ... is certainly applicable to Nottingham, which has 
long been famous for the houses excavated out of the soft sandstone 
upon which it stands' (Stevenson). The word Nottingham itself, how- 
ever, has not this meaning. 


and wintered there that same year. Immediately on their 
approach, Burgred, King of the Mercians, and all the 
nobles of that nation, sent messengers to ^thelred,^ King 
of the West Saxons, and his brother Alfred, entreating 
them to come and aid them in fighting against the afore- 
said army. Their request was readily granted; for the 
brothers, as soon as promised, assembled an immense army 
from every part of their <realm>, and, entering Mercia, came 
to Nottingham, all eager for battle. When now the heathen, 
defended by the castle, refused to fight, and the Christians 
were unable to destroy the wall, peace was made between 
the Mercians and the heathen, and the two brothers, 
.iEthelred and Alfred, returned home with their troops. 

31. The Danes at York.^ — In the year of our Lord's incar- 
nation 869, which was the twenty -first of King Alfred's life, 
the aforesaid army of heathen, riding back to Northumbria, 
went to the city of York, and there passed the whole winter. 

32. The Danes at Thetford.^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 870, which was the twenty-second of King 
Alfred's life, the above-mentioned army of heathen passed 
through Mercia into East Anglia, and wintered at Thetford.^ 

33. The Danes triumph.^ — That same year Edmund, 
King of the East Angles, fought most fiercely against that 
army ; but, lamentable to say, the heathen triumphed, 
for he and most of his men were there slain, while the 
enemy held the battle-field, and reduced all that region to 

34. Ceolnoth dies.* — That same year Ceolnoth, Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, went the way of all flesh, and was 
buried in peace in that city. 

1 Here and elsewhere in the text often spelled ^thered. 

2 From the Chronicle. ^ In Norfolk. 
* Mostly from the Chronicle. 


35. The Danes defeated at Englefield/ — In the year of 
our Lord's incarnation 871, which was the twenty-third of 
King Alfred's life, the heathen army, of hateful memory, 
left East Anglia, and, entering the kingdom of the West 
Saxons, came to the royal vill called Keading, situated on 
the south bank of the Thames, in the district called Berk- 
shire ; and there, on the third day after their arrival, their 
<two> ealdormen, with great part of the army, rode forth 
for plunder, while the others made an entrenchment be- 
tween the rivers Thames and Kennet, on the southern 
side of the same royal vill. They were encountered by 
iEthelwulf, Ealdorman of Berkshire, with his men, at a 
place called Englefield ^ <in English, and in Latin * The 
Field of the Angles').' Both sides fought bravely, and 
made long resistance to each other. At length one of the 
heathen ealdormen was slain, and the greater part of the 
army destroyed; upon which the rest saved themselves 
by flight, and the Christians gained the victory and held 
the battle-field. 

36. Battle of Reading.^ — Four days afterwards, King 
iEthelred and his brother Alfred, uniting their forces and 
assembling an army, marched to Reading, where, on their 
arrival at the castle gate, they cut to pieces and overthrew 
the heathen whom they found outside the fortifications. 
But the heathen fought no less valiantly and, rushing like 
wolves out of every gate, waged battle with all their 
might. Both sides fought long and fiercely, but at last, 
sad to say, the Christians turned their backs, the heathen 
obtained the victory and held the battle-field, the aforesaid 
Ealdorman ^Ethelwulf being among the slain. 

1 Chiefly from the Chronicle. 

2 Five and one-half miles southwest of Reading. 

8 Added from Florence of Worcester by Stevenson. 


37. Battle of Ashdown.^ — E-oused by this grief and 
shame, the Christians, after four days, with all their forces 
and much spirit advanced to battle against the aforesaid 
army, at a place called Ashdown,'^ which in Latin signi- 
fies ' Ash's ^ Hill.' The heathen, forming in two divisions, 
arranged two shield- walls of similar size ; and since they 
had two kings and many ealdormen, they gave the middle * 
part of the army to the two kings, and the other part to 
all the ealdormen. The Christians, perceiving this, divided 
their army also into two troops, and with no less zeal 
formed shield-walls.^ But Alfred, as I have been told by 
truthful eye-witnesses, marched up swiftly with his men to 
the battle-field ; for King ^thelred had remained a long 
time in his tent in prayer, hearing mass, and declaring that 
he would not depart thence alive till the priest had done, 
and that he was not disposed to abandon the service of God 
for that of men ; and according to these sentiments he acted. 
This faith of the Christian king availed much with the 
Lord, as I shall show more fully in the sequel. 

38. Alfred begins the Attack.^ — Now the Christians had 
determined that King J^thelred, with his men, should 
attack the two heathen kings, and that his brother Alfred, 
with his troops, should take the chance of war against all 
the leaders of the heathen. Things being so arranged on 

1 Chiefly from the Chronicle. 

2 The Berkshire Downs (Stevenson). 

3 Stevenson is convinced that ^scesdun, though interpreted as 
'mons fraxini,' cannot mean 'the hill of the ash,' but that Ash is 
here a man's name. 

* Perhaps mediam is a scribal error for unam or primam (Steven- 

^ There is a note on the Germanic shield-wall in my edition of 
Judith (305a), in the Belles Lettres Series. 

** All original except final clause. 


both sides, the king still continued a long time in prayer, 
and the heathen, prepared for battle, had hastened to the 
field. Then Alfred, though only second in command, could 
no longer support the advance of the enemy, unless he 
either retreated or charged upon them without waiting for 
his brother. At length, with the rush of a wild boar, he 
courageously led the Christian troops against the hostile 
army, as he had already designed, for, although the king 
had not yet arrived, he relied upon God's counsel and 
trusted to His aid. Hence, having closed up his shield- 
wall in due order, he straightway advanced his standards 
against the foe. <At length King ^thelred, having fin- 
ished the prayers in which he was engaged, came up, and, 
having invoked the King of the universe, entered upon the 

39. The Heathen Rout and Loss.^ — But here I must inform 
those who are ignorant of the fact that the field of battle 
was not equally advantageous to both parties, since the 
heathen had seized the higher ground, and the Christian 
array was advancing up-hill. In that place there was a 
solitary low thorn-tree, which I have seen with my own 
eyes, and round this the opposing forces met in strife with 
deafening uproar from all, the one side bent on evil, the 
other on fighting for life, and dear ones, and fatherland. 
When both armies had fought bravely and fiercely for a 
long while, the heathen, being unable by God's decree 
longer to endure the onset of the Christians, the larger 
part of their force being slain, betook themselves to shame- 
ful flight. There fell one of the two heathen kings and 
five ealdormen ; many thousand of their men were either 
slain at this spot or lay scattered far and wide over the 

1 Supplied by Stevenson from Florence of Worcester. 

2 Mostly original. 


whole field of Ashdown. Thus there fell King Bagseeg, 
Ealdorman Sidroc the Elder and Ealdorman Sidroc the 
Younger, Ealdorman Osbern, Ealdorman Frsena, and Eal- 
dorman Harold ; and the whole heathen army pursued its 
flight, not only until night, but until the next day, even 
until they reached the stronghold^ from which they had 
sallied. The Christians followed, slaying all they could 
reach, until it became dark. 

40. Battle of Basing."^ — After* fourteen days had elapsed 
King ^thelred and his brother Alfred joined their forces, 
and marched to Basing* to fight with the heathen. Having 
thus assembled, battle was joined, and they held their own 
for a long time, but the heathen gained the victory, and 
held possession of the battle-field. After this fight, another 
army of heathen came from beyond sea, and joined them. 

41. ^thelred's Death. ^ — That same year, after Easter, the 
aforesaid King ^thelred, having bravely, honorably, and 
with good repute governed his kingdom five years through 
many tribulations, went the way of all flesh, and was bur- 
ied in Wimborne Minster,^ where he awaits the coming of 
the Lord and the first resurrection with the just. 

42. Alfred comes to the Throne; Battle of Wilton.^ — 
That same year the aforesaid Alfred, who had been up 
to that time, during the lifetime of his brothers, only 
of secondary rank, now, on the death of his brother, by 
God's permission undertook the government of the whole 

1 Probably Reading. 2 From the Chronicle. 

' Before this sentence occurs the following in the Latin : Quibus 
cum talia proesentis vitoe dispendia alienigenis perperam quoerentibus 
non sufficerent This may represent a sentence in the author's draft 
that was intended, owing to change of construction, to be omitted 
(Stevenson). 4 j^ Hampshire. 

^ Mostly from the Chronicle. 6 j^ Dorsetshire. 

^ Paraphrased and amplified from the Chronicle. 


kingdom, amid the acclamations of all the people ; and 
indeed, if he had chosen, he might easily have done so with 
the general consent whilst his brother above named was 
still alive, since in wisdom and every other good quality he 
surpassed all his brothers, and especially because he was 
brave and victorious in nearly every battle. And when he 
had reigned a month almost against his will — for he did not 
think that he alone, without divine aid, could sustain the 
ferocity of the heathen, though even during his brothers' 
lifetimes he had borne the calamities of many — he fought 
a fierce battle with a few men, and on very unequal terms, 
against all the army of the heathen, at a hill called Wilton, 
on the south bank of the river Wiley,^ from which river 
the whole of that shire is named; and after a severe 
engagement, lasting a considerable part of the day, the 
lieathen, seeing the whole extent of the danger they were 
in, and no longer able to bear the attack of their enemies, 
turned their backs and fled. But, shame to say, they 
took advantage of their pursuers' rashness,^ and, again 
rallying, gained the victory and kept the battle-field. Let \ 
no one be surprised that the Christians had but a small ' 
number of men, for the Saxons as a people had been all 
but worn out by eight battles in this selfsame year against 
the heathen, in which there died one king, nine chieftains, 
and innumerable troops of soldiers, not to speak of count- 
less skirmishes both by night and by day, in which the oft- 
named <King> Alfred, and all the leaders of that people, with 
their men, and many of the king's thanes, had been engaged 
in unwearied strife against the heathen. How many thou- 
sand heathen fell in these numberless skirmishes God alone 

1 A tributary of the Nadder, which it joins near Wilton. 

2 Or, perhaps, ' fewness,' reading paucitatem for peravdacUatem 


knows, over and above those who were slain in the eight 
battles above mentioned. 

43. Peace made.^ — In that same year the Saxons made 
peace with the heathen, on condition that they should take 
their departure ; and this they did. 

44. The Heathen winter in London.^ — In the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 872, being the twenty-fourth of King 
Alfred's life, the aforesaid army of heathen went to London, 
and there wintered; and the Mercians made peace with 

45. The Heathen winter in Lindsey.^ — In the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 873, being the twenty-fifth of King 
Alfred's life, the oft-named army, leaving London, went into 
Northumbria, and there wintered in the shire of Lindsey; 
and the Mercians again made peace with them. 

46. The Danes in Mercia.^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 874, being the twenty-sixth of King Alfred's 
life, the above-named army left Lindsey and marched to Mer- 
cia, where they wintered at Kepton.'* Also they compelled 
Burgred, King of Mercia, against his will to leave his king- 
dom and go beyond sea to Eome, in the twenty-second year 
of his reign. He did not live long after his arrival at Kome, 
but died there, and was honorably buried in the Colony of 
the Saxons,^ in St. Mary's church,^ where he awaits the 
Lord's coming and the first resurrection with the just. The 
heathen also, after his expulsion, subjected the whole king- 
dom of Mercia to their dominion ; but, by a miserable 
arrangement, gave it into the custody of a certain foolish 

1 Mostly from the Chronicle. ^ From the Chronicle. 

8 Chiefly from the Chronicle. * In Derbyshire. 

6 Among the Germans there were Colonies {Scholce) of the Frisians, 
Franks, and Lombards, as well as of the Saxons. 
^ Now Santo Spirito in Sassia, near the "Vatican. 


man, named Ceolwulf, one of the <king's> thanes, on con- 
dition that he should peaceably restore it to th6m on what- 
soever day they should wish to have it again ; and to bind 
this agreement he gave them hostages, and swore that he 
would not oppose their will in any way, but be obedient to 
them in every respect. 

47. The Danes in Northumbria and Cambridge.^ — In the year 
of our Lord's incarnation 875, being the twenty-seventh of 
King Alfred's life, the above-mentioned army, leaving 
Repton, separated into two bodies, one of which went with 
Halfdene into Northumbria, and having wintered there 
near the Tyne, and reduced all Northumbria to subjection, 
also ravaged the Picts and the people of Strathclyde.^ 
The other division, with Guthrum,^ Oscytel, and Anwind, 
three kings of the heathen, went to Cambridge, and there 

48. Alfred's Battle at Sea.* — In that same year King 
Alfred fought a battle at sea against six ships of the heathen, 
and took one of them, the rest escaping by flight. 

49. Movements of the Danes. ^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 876, being the twenty-eighth year of King 
Alfred's life, the oft-mentioned army of the heathen, leav- 
ing Cambridge by night, entered a fortress called Wareham,^ 
where there is a monastery of nuns between the two rivers 
Froom <and Tarrant), in the district which is called in Welsh 
Durngueir,'' but in Saxon Thornsseta,^ placed in a most 
secure location, except on the western side, where there was 
a territory adjacent. With this army Alfred made a solemn 
treaty to the effect that they should depart from him, and 

1 From the Chronicle. ^ Chiefly from the Chronicle. 

2 The valley of the Clyde. ^ In Dorsetshire. 

3 Here spelled Gothrum. "^ Dorchester. 

* From the Chronicle. s ^or the usual Domsaete. 


they made no hesitation to give him as many picked hos- 
tages as he named ; also they swore an oath on all the relics 
in which King Alfred trusted next to God/ and on which 
they had never before sworn to any people, that they would 
speedily depart from his kingdom. But they again practised 
their usual treachery, and caring nothing for either hostages 
or oath, they broke the treaty, and, sallying forth by night, 
slew all the horsemen [horses ?] that they had,'^ and, turn- 
ing off, started without warning for another place called in 
Saxon Exanceastre, and in Welsh Cairwisc, which means 
in Latin ' The City <of Exe>,' situated on the eastern bank 
of the river Wise,® near the southern sea which divides 
Britain from Gaul, and there passed the winter. 

50. Half dene partitions Northumbria. — In that same year 
Halfdene, king of that part of Northumbria, divided up the 
whole .region between himself and his men, and settled 
there with his army. 

51. Division of Mercia.* — The same year, in the month of 
August, that army went into Mercia, and gave part of the 
district of the Mercians to one Ceolwulf,^ a weak-minded 
thane of the king ; the rest they divided among themselves. 

52. The Danes at Chippenham.® — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 878, being the thirtieth of King Alfred's life, 
the oft-mentioned army left Exeter, and went to Chippen- 
ham, a royal vill, situated in the north of Wiltshire, on the 
east bank of the river which is called Avon in Welsh, and 

1 Here the Chronicle has 'on the holy arm-ring,' on which the 
Danes, it would seem, were accustomed to swear. 

2 Here the Chronicle has : ' They, the mounted army, stole away 
from the^erd [the English forces] in the night into Exeter.' This, of 
course, is the true account, while the statement in Asser is incredible. 

8 Exe. 8 See chap. 46. 

* From the Chronicle. ^ Largely from the Chronicle. 


there wintered. And they drove many of that people by 
their arms, by poverty, and by fear, to voyage beyond sea, 
and reduced almost all the inhabitants of that district to 

53. Alfred in Somersetshire. — At that same time the 
above-mentioned King Alfred, with a few of his nobles, and 
certain soldiers and vassals, was leading in great tribula- 
tion an unquiet life among the woodlands and swamps of 
Somersetshire ; for he had nothing that he needed except 
what by frequent sallies he could forage openly or stealthily 
from the heathen or from the Christians who had submitted 
to the rule of the heathen.^ 

54. The Danes defeated at Cynwit.^ — In that same year 
the brother * of Inwar * and Halfdene, with twenty-three 
ships, came, after many massacres of the Christians, from 
Dyfed,® where he had wintered, and sailed to Devon, where 
with twelve hundred others he met with a miserable death, 
being slain, while committing his misdeeds, by the king's 
thanes, before the fortress of Cynwit,® in which many of 
the king's thanes, with their followers, had shut themselves 
up for safety. The heathen, seeing that the fortress was 
unprepared and altogether unfortified, except that it merely 
had fortifications after our manner, determined not to 
assault it, because that place is rendered secure by its posi- 
tion on all sides except the eastern, as I myself have seen, 
but began to besiege it, thinking that those men would 
soon surrender from famine, thirst, and the blockade, since 

1 At this point Archbishop Parker interpolated, from the Annals 
of St. Neots, the story of Alfred and the cakes. This story, however, 
cannot be proved to antedate the Norman Conquest. 

2 The first clause from the Chronicle; the rest original. 

3 Name unknown. s Qr South Wales. See chap. 80. 
* Hingwar. e site unknown. 


there is no water close to the fortress. But the result did 
not fall out as they expected ; for the Christians, before 
they began at all to suffer from such want, being inspired 
by Heaven, and judging it much better to gain either victory 
or death, sallied out suddenly upon the heathen at day- 
break, and from the first cut them down in great numbers, 
slaying also their king, so that few escaped to their ships. 

55. Alfred at Athelney.^ — The same year, after Easter, 
King Alfred, with a few men, made a stronghold in a place 
called Athelney,"^ and from thence sallied with his vassals 
of Somerset to make frequent and unwearied assaults upon 
the heathen. And again, the seventh week after Easter, he 
rode to Egbert's Stone,^ which is in the eastern part of 
Selwood Forest (in Latin 'Great Forest,' and in Welsh 
Coit Maur). Here he was met by all the neighboring folk 
of Somersetshire and Wiltshire, and such of Hampshire 
as had not sailed beyond sea for fear of the heathen ; and 
when they saw the king restored alive, as it were, after 
such great tribulation, they were filled, as was meet, with 
immeasurable joy, and encamped there for one night. At 
daybreak of the following morning, the king struck his 
camp, and came to .^glea,* where he encamped for one 

56. Battle of Edington, and Treaty with Guthrum.^ — The 
next morning at dawn he moved his standards to Edington,* 
and there fought bravely and perseveringly by means of a 
close shield-wall against the whole army of the heathen, 

1 Mostly from the Chronicle. 

2 In Somersetshire. 8 Unknown. 

* Or perhaps better, Iglea ; see Stevenson's note on the word, p. 270 
of his edition. He says : ' It is probably an older name of Southleigh 
Wood, or of part of it.' 

* Based upon the Chronicle. ^ In Wiltshire. 


whom at length, with the divine help, he defeated with 
great slaughter, and pursued them flying to their strong- 
hold. Immediately he slew all the men and carried off all 
the horses and cattle that he could find without the fortress, 
and thereupon pitched his camp, with all his army, before 
the gates of the heathen stronghold. And when he had 
remained there fourteen days, the heathen, terrified by 
hunger, cold, fear, and last of all by despair, begged for 
peace, engaging to give the king as many designated hos- 
tages as he pleased, and to receive none from him in return 
— in which manner they had never before made peace 
with any one. The king, hearing this embassage, of his 
own motion took pity upon them, and received from them 
the designated hostages, as many as he would. Thereupon 
the heathen swore, besides, that they would straightway 
leave his kingdom ; and their king, Guthrum, promised to 
embrace Christianity, and receive baptism at King Alfred's 
hands — all of which articles he and his men fulfilled as 
they had promised. For after (three) ^ weeks Guthrum, king 
of the heathen, with thirty "^ men chosen from his army, 
came to Alfred at a place called AUer, near Athelney, and 
there King Alfred, receiving him as a son by adoption, 
raised him up from the holy font of baptism. On the eighth 
day, at a royal vill named Wedmore, his chrism-loosing* 

1 Supplied by Stevenson from the Chronicle. 

2 Properly, as one of thirty, according to the Chronicle. 

8 Chrism is the term employed for the mixture of oil and balsam 
employed in the rite of confirmation, and sometimes for the ceremony 
of confirmation itself. In the early church, this ceremony immediately 
followed baptism, and was performed by the laying on of hands. In 
the Koman church it is obligatory on all Catholics, and no baptism is 
theoretically complete without it. It is performed by a bishop (only 
exceptionally by a priest). The ceremony begins with the bishop's ris- 
ing and facing the person or persons to be confirmed, his pastoral staff 


took place. After his baptism he remained "twelve days 
with the king, who, together with all his companions, gave 
him many rich gifts. ^ 

57. The Danes go to Cirencester.^ — In the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 879, which was the thirty-first of King 
Alfred's life, the aforesaid army of heathen, leaving Chip- 
penham, as they had promised, went to Cirencester, which 
is called in Welsh Cairceri, and is situated in the southern 

in his hand, and saying : ' May the Holy Ghost come upon you, and 
the power of the Holy Ghost keep you from sins ' {Handbook to Chris- 
tian and Ecclesiastical Rome: Liturgy in Rome, London, 1897, pp. 169- 
171). The rite is described in Egbert's Pontifical, which may be taken 
as representing the custom in the church of Alfred's time. Lingard 
says {Anglo-Saxon Church, London, 1858, 1. 297): 'According to that 
pontifical, the bishop prayed thus: "Almighty and Everlasting God, 
who hast granted to this thy servant to be born again of water and the 
Holy Ghost, and hast given to him remission of his sins, send down 
upon him thy sevenfold Holy Spirit, the Paraclete from heaven, 
Amen. Give to him the spirit of wisdom and understanding, Amen — 
the spirit of counsel and fortitude, Amen — the spirit of knowledge 
and piety. Amen. Fill him with the spirit of the fear of God and our 
Lord Jesus Christ, and mercifully sign him with the sign of the holy 
cross for life eternal." The bishop then marked his forehead with 
chrism, and proceeded thus: "Receive this sign of the holy cross 
with the chrism of salvation in Christ Jesus unto life eternal." The 
head was then bound with a fillet of new linen to be worn seven days, 
and the bishop resumed: "O God, who didst give thy Holy Spirit to 
thine apostles, that by them and their successors he might be given to 
the rest of the faithful, look down on the ministry of our lowliness, 
and grant that into the heart of him whose forehead we have this day 
anointed, and confirmed with the sign of the cross, thy Holy Spirit 
may descend ; and that, dwelling therein, he may make it the temple 
of his glory, through Christ our Lord." The confirmed then received 
the episcopal blessing, and communicated during the mass.' 

The chrism-loosing was the ceremony of unbinding the fillet, appar- 

1 MS. oedificia ; Stevenson, benejicia. ^ Chiefly from the Chronicle. 


part of the kingdom of the Hwicce,^ and there they remained 
one year. 

58. Danes at Fulham.^ — In that same year a large army 
of heathen sailed from beyond sea into the river Thames, 
and joined the greater army. However, they wintered at 
Fulham, near the river Thames. 

59. An Eclipse.^ — In that same year an eclipse * of the sun 
took place between nones and vespers, but nearer to nones. 

60. The Danes in East Anglia.^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 880, which was the thirty-second of King 
Alfred's life, the oft-mentioned army of heathen left Ciren- 
cester, and went to East Anglia, where they divided up the 
country and began to settle. 

61. The Smaller Army leaves England.^ — That same year 
the army of heathen, which had wintered at Fulham, left 
the island of Britain, and sailed over sea to East Frankland, 
where they remained for a year at a place called Ghent. 

62. The Danes fight with the Franks. — In the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 881, whibh was the thirty-third of King 
Alfred's life, the army went further on into Frankland, and 
the Franks fought against them ; and after the battle the 
heathen, obtaining horses, became an army of cavalry. 

63. The Danes on the Meuse.'' — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 882, which was the thirty-fourth of King 
Alfred's life, the aforesaid army sailed their ships up into 
Frankland by a river called the Meuse, and there wintered 
one year. 

64. Alfred's Naval Battle with the Danes.^ — In that same 
year Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, fought a battle at 

1 Gloucester, Worcester, etc. ^ From the Chronicle. 

2 Mostly from the Chronicle. ^ Ibid. 

3 Mostly from the Chronicle. "^ Ibid. 
* See Stevenson's interesting note. * Ibid. 


sea against tlie heathen fleet, of which he captured two 
ships, and slew all who were on board. Two commanders 
of the other ships, with all their crews, worn out by the 
fight and their wounds, laid down their arms, and submitted 
to the king on bended knees with many entreaties. 

65. The Danes at Cond6.^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 883, which was the thirty-fifth of King Alfred's 
life, the aforesaid army sailed their ships up the river called 
Scheldt to a convent of nuns called Conde, and there 
remained one year. 

66. Deliverance of Rochester.^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 884, which was the thirty-sixth of King Alfred's 
life, the aforesaid army divided into two parts: one body 
of them went into East Frankland, and the other, coming 
to Britain, entered Kent, where they besieged a city called 
in Saxon Eochester, situated on the east bank of the river 
Medway. Before the gate of the town the heathen suddenly 
erected a strong fortress ; but they were unable to take the 
city, because the citizens defended themselves bravely until 
King Alfred came up to help them with a large army. 
Then the heathen abandoned their fortress and all the 
horses which they had brought with them out of Frank- 
land, and, leaving behind them in the fortress the greater 
part of their prisoners on the sudden arrival of the king, 
fled in haste to their ships ; the Saxons immediately seized 
upon the prisoners and horses left by the heathen ; and so 
the latter, compelled by dire necessity, returned the same 
summer to Frankland. 

67. Alfred's Naval Battle at the Mouth of the Stour.* — 
In that same year Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, 
shifted his fleet, full of fighting men, from Kent to East 

1 Mostly from the Chronicle. ^ Largely from the Chronicle. 

3 Mostly from the Chronicle. 


Anglia,^ for the sake of spoil. No sooner had they arrived 
at the mouth of the river Stour than thirteen ships of 
the heathen met them, prepared for battle ; a fierce naval 
combat ensued, and the heathen were all slain ; all the 
ships, with all their money, were taken. After this, while 
the victorious royal fleet was reposing,^ the heathen who 
occupied East Anglia assembled their ships from every 
quarter, met the same royal fleet at sea in the mouth of the 
same river, and, after a naval engagement, gained the 

68. Death of Carloman, of Louis II, and of Louis UI.^ — 
In that same year also, Carloman, King of the West 
Franks, while engaged in a boar-hunt, was miserably slain 
by a boar, which inflicted a dreadful wound on him with 
its tusk. His brother Louis, who had also been King of the 
Franks, had died the year before. Both these were sons of 
Louis,* King of the Franks, who also had died in the year 
above mentioned, in which the eclipse of the sun took 
place.^ This Louis was the son of Charles,® King of the 
Franks, whose daughter Judith'' .(Ethelwulf, King of the 
West Saxons, took to queen with her father's consent. 

69. The Danes in Old Saxony.* — In that same year a 
great army of the heathen came from Germany ® into the 
country of the Old Saxons, which is called in Saxon Eald- 
Seaxum. To oppose them the same Saxons and Frisians 
joined their forces, and fought bravely twice in that same 

1 Cf. chap. 60. 

2 The MS. has dormiret, but perhaps for domum irei, since the 
Chronicle has hamweard wendon (Stevenson); so perhaps we should 
read ' was on its way home. ' 

8 Chiefly from the Chronicle. * Charles the Bald. 

* Louis the Stammerer. '' Cf. chaps. 11 and 13, 

6 Cf. chap. 59. 8 From the Chronicle. 

9 From Duisburg, about January, 884 (Stevenson). 


year.^ In both these battles the Christians, by God's mer- 
ciful aid, gained the victory. 

70. Charles, King of the Alemanni.'^ — In that same year 
also, Charles, King of the Alemanni, received .with uni- 
versal consent the kingdom of the West Franks, and all 
the kingdoms which lie between the Tyrrhene Sea and that 
gulf ^ situated between the Old Saxons and the Gauls, with 
the exception of the kingdom of Armorica.* This Charles 
was the son of King Louis,^ who was brother of Charles, 
King of the Franks, father of Judith, the aforesaid queen ; 
these two brothers were sons of Louis,^ Louis being the son 
of Charlemagne, son of Pepin. 

71. Death of Pope Marinus.^ — In that same year Pope 
Marinus, of blessed memory, went the way of all flesh ; it 
was he who, for the love of Alfred, King of the Anglo- 
Saxons, and at his request, generously freed the Saxon 
Colony in Rome from all tribute and tax. He also sent to 
the aforesaid king many gifts on that occasion, among 
which was no small portion of the most holy and venerable 
cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ hung for the salva- 
tion of all mankind. 

72. The Danes break their Treaty.* — In that same year 
also the army of heathen which dwelt in East Anglia dis- 
gracefully broke the peace which they had concluded with 
King Alfred. 

73. Asser makes a New Beginning.® — And now, to return 
to that from which I digressed, lest I be compelled by my 

1 There was a battle in Frisia, about December, 884, and a later one 
in Saxony (Stevenson). ^ Louis the German. 

2 Mainly from the Chronicle. ^ Louis the Pious. 

' The North Sea. ' Mainly from the Chronicle. 

* Brittany. ^ From the Chronicle. 

' Based upon the preface to Eginhard's Life of Charlemagne. 


long navigation to abandon the haven, of desired rest/ I 
propose, as far as my knowledge will enable me, to speak 
somewhat concerning the life, character, and just conduct, 
and in no small degree concerning the deeds, of my lord 
Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, after he married the 
said respected wife of noble Mercian race ; and, with God's 
blessing, I will despatch it concisely and briefly, as I prom- 
ised, that I may not, by prolixity in relating each new 
event, offend the minds of those who may be somewhat 
hard to please. 

74. Alfred's Maladies.^ — While his nuptials were being 
honorably celebrated in Mercia, among innumerable multi- 
tudes of both sexes, and after long feasts by night and by day, 
he was suddenly seized, in the presence of all the people, by 
instant and overwhelming pain, unknown to any physician. 
No one there knew, nor even those who daily see him up 
to the present time — and this, sad to say, is the worst of 
all, that it should have continued uninterruptedly through 
the revolutions of so many years, from the twentieth to the 
fortieth year of his life and more — whence such a malady 
arose. Many thought that it was occasioned by the favor 
and fascination of the people who surrounded him ; others, 
by some spite of the devil, who is ever jealous of good men ; 
others, from an unusual kind of fever ; while still others 
thought it was the ficus,^ which species of severe disease 
he had had from his childhood. On a certain occasion it 
had come to pass by the divine will that when he had 
gone to Cornwall on a hunting expedition, and had turned 
out of the road to pray in a certain church in which rests 
Saint Gueriir [and now also St. Neot reposes there],* he 
had of his own accord prostrated himself for a long time 

1 See chap. 21. 2 Original. ^ Perhaps the hemorrhoids. 

* Interpolated some time between 893 and 1000 a.d. 


in silent prayer — since from childhood he had been a fre- 
quent visitor of holy places for prayer and the giving of 
alms — and there he besought the mercy of the Lord that, 
in his boundless clemency, Almighty God would exchange 
the torments of the malady which then afflicted him for 
some other lighter disease, provided that such disease 
should not show itself outwardly in his body, lest he should 
be useless and despised — for he had great dread of leprosy 
or blindness, or any such complaint as instantly makes 
men useless and despised at its coming. When he had 
finished his praying, he proceeded on his journey, and not 
long after felt within himself that he had been divinely 
healed, according to his request, of that disorder, and that 
it was entirely eradicated, although he had obtained even 
this complaint in the first flower of his youth by his devout 
and frequent prayers and supplications to God. For if I 
may be allowed to speak concisely, though in a somewhat 
inverted order, of his zealous piety to God — in his earliest 
youth, before he married his wife, he wished to establish 
his mind in God's commandments, for he perceived that he 
could not abstain from carnal desires ^ ; and because he 
saw that he should incur the anger of God if he did any- 
thing contrary to His will, he used often to rise at cock- 
crow and at the matin hours, and go to pray in churches 
and at the relics of the saints. There he would prostrate 
himself, and pray that Almighty God in His mercy would 
strengthen his mind still more in the love of His service, 
converting it fully to Himself by some infirmity such as he 
might bear, but not such as would render him contempt- 
ible and useless in worldly affairs. Now when he had 

1 In Alfred's prayer at the end of his translation of Boethius, one 
of the petitions is : ' Deliver me from foul lust and from all unright- 


often prayed with much devotion to this effect, after an 
interval of some time he incurred as a gift from God the 
before-named disease of the ficus, which he bore long and 
painfully for many years, even despairing of life, until he 
entirely got rid of it by prayer. But, sad to say, though 
it had been removed, a worse one seized him, as I have 
said, at his marriage, and this incessantly tormented him, 
night and day, from the twentieth to the forty -fifth year of 
his life. But if ever, by God's mercy, he was relieved from 
this infirmity for a single day or night, or even for the 
space of one hour, yet the fear and dread of that terrible 
malady never left him, but rendered him almost useless, as 
he thought, in every affair, whether human or divine. 

75. Alfred's Children and their Education.^ — The sons and 
daughters whom he had by his wife above-mentioned were 
-^thelflsed, the eldest, after whom came Edward, then 
^thelgivu, then ^Ifthryth, and -finally ^thelward — 
besides those who died in childhood. The number of ... ^ 
^thelflaed, when she arrived at a marriageable age, was 
united to ^thelred,^ Ealdorman of Mercia. ^Ethelgivu, 
having dedicated her maidenhood to God, entered His serv- 
ice, and submitted to the rules of the monastic life, to 
which she was consecrate, ^thelward, the youngest, by 
the divine counsel and by the admirable foresight of the 
king, was intrusted to the schools of literary training, 
where, with the children of almost all the nobility of the 
country, and many also who were not noble, he was under 
the diligent care of the teachers. Books in both languages, 
namely, Latin and Saxon, were diligently read in the 
school.* They also learned to write ; so that before they 

1 Original. 

2 This is the beginning of a corrupt sentence, of which nothing has 
been made. ^ mS. Eadredo. * See Appendix I, p. 70. 


were of an age to practise human arts, namely, hunting 
and other pursuits which befit noblemen, they became 
studious and clever in the liberal arts. Edward and iElf- 
thryth were always bred up in the king's court, and received 
great attention from their tutors and nurses ; nay, they 
continue to this day, with much love from every one, to 
show humbleness, affability, and gentleness towards all, 
both natives and foreigners, while remaining in complete 
subjection to their father. Nor, among the other pursuits 
which appertain to this life and are fit for noble youths, 
are they suffered to pass their time idly and unprofitably 
without liberal training ; for they have carefully learned 
the Psalms ^ and Saxon books, especially Saxon poems, and 
are in the habit of making frequent use of books. 

76. Alfred's Varied Pursuits.^ — In the meantime, the king, 
during the wars and frequent trammels of this present 
life, the invasions of the heathen, and his own daily infir- 
mities of body, continued to carry on the government, and 
to practise hunting in all its branches ; to teach his gold- 
smiths ® and all his artificers, his falconers, hawkers, and 
dog-keepers ; to build houses, majestic and rich beyond all 
custom of his predecessors, after his own new designs ; to 
recite the Saxon books, and especially to learn by heart 
Saxon poems,* and to make others learn them, he alone 
never ceasing from studying most diligently to the best of 
his ability. He daily attended mass and the other services 
of religion ; recited certain psalms, together with prayers, 
and the daily and nightly hour-service ; and frequented the 
churches at night, as I have said, that he might pray in 

1 See chaps. 24 and 88. 

2 Original. 

8 Cf . Alfred's jewel, and the book upon it by Professor Earle. 
* See chaps. 23 and 75. 


secret, apart from others. He bestowed alms and largesses 
both on natives and on foreigners of all countries ; was 
most affable and agreeable to all ; and was skilful in the 
investigation of things unknown.^ Many Franks, Frisians,* 
Gauls, heathen,' Welsh, Irish,* and Bretons,® noble and 
simple, submitted voluntarily to his dominion ; and all of 
them, according to their worthiness,^ he ruled, loved, 
honored, and enriched with money and power, as if they 
had been his own people.' Moreover, he was sedulous and 
zealous in the habit of hearing the divine Scriptures read 
by his own countrymen, or if, by any chance it so hap- 
pened that any one arrived from abroad, to hear prayers 
in company with foreigners. His bishops, too, and all the 
clergy, his ealdormen and nobles, his personal attendants 
and friends, he loved with wonderful affection. Their sons, 
too, who were bred up in the royal household, were no less 
dear to him than his own ; he never ceased to instruct them 
in all kinds of good morals, and, among other things, him- 
self to teach them literature night and day. But as if 
he had no consolation in all these things, and suffered no 
other annoyance either from within or without, he was so 

1 Our first accounts of Arctic exploration are from his pen. For his 
interest in geographical discovery see the narratives of Ohthere and 
Wulfstan, in his translation of Orosius. In 897, according to the 
Chronicle, he was experimenting with new war-galleys : ' They were 
almost twice as long as the others. Some had sixty oars, some more. 
They were swifter, steadier, and higher than the others, and were 
built, not on a Frisian or Danish model, but according to his personal 
notions of their utility.' 

2 There were Frisians in his fleet in 897 (Chronicle). 

' Northmen ; such were Ohthere and Wulfstan (see note 1, above). 

* Three such came to him in 891 (Chronicle). 

6 MS. Armorici. See chap. 102. 

6 Or, ' degrees ' ; cf . p. 60. '' See chap. 101. 


harassed by daily and nightly sadness that he complained 
and made moan to the Lord, and to all who were admitted 
to his familiarity and affection, that Almighty God had 
made him ignorant of divine wisdom and of the liberal 
arts ; in this emulating the pious, famous, and wealthy 
Solomon, King of the Hebrews, who at the outset, despis- 
ing all present glory and riches, asked wisdom of God, and 
yet found both, namely, wisdom and present glory ; as it 
is written, < Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteous- 
ness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' ^ But 
God, who is always the observer of the thoughts of the 
inward mind, the instigator of meditations and of all good 
purposes, and a plentiful aider in the formation of good 
desires — for He would never inspire a man to aim at the 
good unless He also amply supplied that which the man 
justly and properly wished to have — stirred up the king's 
mind from within, not from without ; as it is written, ' I 
will hearken what the Lord God will say concerning me.' ^ 
He would avail himself of every opportunity to procure 
assistants in his good designs, to aid him in his strivings 
after wisdom, that he might attain to what he aimed at ; 
and, like a prudent bee,^ which, rising in summer at early 
morning from her beloved cells, steers her course with 
rapid flight along the uncertain paths of the air, and 
descends on the manifold and varied flowers of grasses, 
herbs, and shrubs, essaying that which most pleases her, 
and bearing it home, he directed the eyes of his mind afar, 
and sought that without which he had not within, that is, 
in his own kingdom.* 

1 Matt. 6. 33. 2 pg. 85. 8. 

8 Cf . chap. 88 ; Stevenson gives a number of parallels from ancient 
and mediaeval authors, beginning with Lucretius (3. 9) and Seneca 
{Epist. 84.3). 4 Cf. chap. 24. 


77. Alfred's Scholarly Associates : Werfrith, Plegmund, 
^thelstan, and Werwulf.^ — But God at that time, as some 
consolation to the king's benevolence, enduring no longer 
his kindly and just complaint, sent as it were certain 
luminaries, namely, Werfrith,^ Bishop of the church of 
Worcester, a man well versed in divine Scripture, who, by 
the king's command, was the first to interpret with clear- 
ness and elegance the books of the Dialogues of Pope 
Gregory and Peter, his disciple, from Latin into Saxon, 
sometimes putting sense for sense ; then Plegmund,^ a 
Mercian by birth. Archbishop of the church of Canterbury, 
a venerable man, endowed with wisdom; besides ^thel- 
stan * and Werwulf , learned priests and clerks,^ Mercians 
by birth. These four King Alfred had called to him from 
Mercia, and he exalted them with many honors and powers 
in the kingdom of the West Saxons, not to speak of those 
■vyhich Archbishop Plegmund and Bishop Werfrith had in 
Mercia. By the teaching and wisdom of all these the king's 
desire increased continually, and was gratified. Night and 
day, whenever he had any leisure, he commanded such 
men as these to read books to him — for he never suffered 
himself to be without one of them — so that he came to 
possess a knowledge of almost every book, though of him- 
self he could not yet understand anything of books, since 
he had not yet learned to read anything. 

1 Original. 

2 See Appendix I, p. 69. In Alfred's will he gives "Werfrith (Wser- 
ferth) a hundred marks. 

8 See Appendix I, p. 71. 

* Perhaps Bishop of Ramsbury (909 a.d.). The later MSS. of the 
Chronicle say, under the year 883 : ' And in the same year Sighelm 
and ^thelstan took to Rome the alms that King Alfred sent, and also 
to India to St. Thomas' and St. Bartholomew's.' 

* Or, ' chaplains.' See p. 61, note 6. 


78. Grimbald and John, the Old Saxon.* — But since the 
king's commendable avarice could not be gratified even in 
this, he sent messengers beyond sea to Gaul, to procure 
teachers, and invited from thence Grimbald,^ priest and 
monk, a venerable man and excellent singer, learned in 
every kind of ecclesiastical discipline and in holy Scripture, 
and adorned with all virtues. He also obtained from thence 
John,' both priest and monk, a man of the keenest intellect, 
learned in all branches of literature, and skilled in many 
other arts. By the teaching of these men the king's mind 
was greatly enlarged, and he enriched and honored them 
with much power. 

79. Asset's Negotiations with King Alfred.* — At that time 
I also came to Wessex, out of the furthest coasts of West- 
ern Wales ; and when I had proposed to go to him through 
many intervening provinces, I arrived in the country of the 
South Saxons, which in Saxon is called Sussex, under the 
guidance of some of that nation ; and there I first saw him 
in the royal vill which is called Dene.^ He received me 
with kindness, and, among other conversation, besought me 
eagerly to devote myself to his service and become his 
friend, and to leave for his sake everything which I pos- 
sessed on the northern and western side of the Severn, 
promising he would give me more than an equivalent for 
it, as in fact he did. I replied that I could not incautiously 
and rashly promise such things ; for it seemed to me unjust 
that I should leave those sacred places in which I had been 

1 Original. 

2 Probably from the monastery of St. Bertin, at St. Omer (Pas-de- . 
Calais). See Appendix I, p. 71, and Appendix II, pp. 75 ff. 

3 Cf. chap. 94, and Appendix I, p. 71. 
* Original. 

5 Perhaps Dean, near Eastbourne, in Sussex. 


bred and educated, where I had received the tonsure, and 
had at length been ordained, for the sake of any earthly 
honor and power, unless by force and compulsion. Upon 
this he said : ' If you cannot accede to this, at least grant 
me half your service : spend six months with me here, and 
six in Wales.' To this I replied : ' I could not easily or 
rashly promise even that without the approval of my 
friends.' At length, however, when I perceived that he 
was really anxious for my services, though I knew not 
why, I promised him that, if my life were spared, I would 
return to him after six months, with such a reply as should 
b& agreeable to him as well as advantageous to me and 
mine. With this q,nswer he was satisfied ; and when I had 
given him a pledge to return at the appointed time, on the 
fourth day we rode away from him, and returned to my 
own country. After our departure, a violent fever seized 
me in the city of Cserwent,^ where I lay for twelve months 
and one week, night and day, without hope of recovery. 
When at the appointed time, therefore, I had not fulfilled 
my promise of visiting him, he sent letters to hasten my 
journey on horseback to him, and to inquire the cause of 
my delay. As I was unable to ride to him, I sent a reply 
to make known to him the cause of my delay, and assure 
him that, if I recovered from my illness, I would fulfil what 
I had promised. My disease finally left me, and accord- 
ingly, by the advice and consent of all my friends, for the 
benefit of that holy place and of all who dwelt therein, 
I devoted myself to the king's service as I had promised, the 
condition being that I should remain with him six months 

^ Five miles southwest of Chepstow. ' There was an abbey there, 
where a traveling ecclesiastic would be likely to stay, and it was on 
the great Roman road to South Wales, by which a traveler from Wes- 
sex to St. Davids would proceed ' (Stevenson). 


every year, either continuously, if I could spend six months 
with him at once, or alternately, three months in Wales 
and three in Wessex. It was also understood that he 
should in all ways be helpful to St. Davids, as far as his 
power extended.^ For my friends hoped by this means to 
sustain less tribulation and harm from King Hemeid — who 
often plundered that monastery and the parish of St. Davids, 
and sometimes expelled the bishops who ruled over it, as 
he did Archbishop Nobis, my relative, and on occasion 
myself, their subordinate — if in any way I could secure 
the notice and friendship of the king. 

80. The Welsh Princes who submit to Alfred.^ — At that 
time, and long before, all the countries in South Wales 
belonged to King Alfred, and still belong to him. For 
instance. King Hemeid, with all the inhabitants of the 
region of Dyfed,* restrained by the violence of the six sons 
of Rhodri,* had submitted to the dominion of the king. 
Howel also, son of Ris, King of Glywyssing,^ and Broch- 
mail and Fernmail, sons of Mouric, kings of Gwent,® com- 
pelled by the violence and tyranny of Ealdorman .^thelred 
and of the Mercians, of their own accord sought out the same 
king,'' that they might enjoy rule and protection from him 
against their enemies. Helised, also, son of Teudubr, King 
of Brecknock, compelled by the violence of the same sons 
of Rhodri, of his own accord sought the lordship of the 

• 1 The MS. seems to be corrupt at this point, so that what I have 
given is a loose conjectural rendering of the Latin : . . . et ilia adjuva- 
retur per rudimenta Sancti Dequi in omni causa, tamen pro viribus. 

2 Original. 

8 Pembrokeshire and part of Carmarthenshire. 

* ' Rhodri Mawr (the Great), King of Gwyneth, who acquired the 
rule of the whole of North and Mid- Wales and Cardigan' (Stevenson). 

6 Old name of Glamorgan and part of Monmouthshire. 

8 In Monmouthshire. '' Alfred. 


aforesaid king ; and Anarawd, son of Rhodri, with his 
brothers, at length abandoning the friendship of the North- 
umbrians, from whom he had received no good, but rather 
harm, came into King Alfred's presence, and eagerly 
sought his friendship. The king received him with honor, 
adopted him as his son by confirmation from the bishop's 
hand,^ and bestowed many gifts upon him. Thus he became 
subject to the king with all his people, on condition that 
he should be obedient to the king's will in all respects, in 
the same way as ^thelred and the Mercians. 

81. How Alfred rewards Submission.^ — Nor was it in vain 
that they all gained the friendship of the king. For those 
who desired to augment their worldly power obtained power ; 
those who desired money gained money ; those who desired 
his friendship acquired his friendship ; those who wished 
more than one secured more than one. But all of them 
had his love and guardianship and defense from every 
quarter, so far as the king, with all his men, could defend 
himself. When therefore I had come to him at the royal 
vill called Leonaford,* I was honorably received by him, 
and remained that time with him at his court eight months ; 
during which I read to him whatever books he liked, of 
such as he had at hand ; for this is his peculiar and most 
confirmed habit, both night and day, amid all his other 
occupations of mind and body,* either himself to read books, 
or to listen to the reading of others. And when I fre- 
quently had sought his permission to return, and had in no 

1 See chaps. 8 and 56. 2 Original. 

8 Perhaps Landlord in Wiltshire. 

* In Alfred's Preface to his translation of Boethius we are told : 
' [He made this translation as well as he could], considering the various 
and manifold worldly cares that oft troubled him both in mind and 
body.' The similarity of phrase is striking. 


way been able to obtain it, at length, when I had made up 
my mind by all means to demand it, he called me to him at 
twilight on Christmas Eve, and gave me two letters in which 
was a manifold list of all the things which were in the two 
monasteries which are called in Saxon Congresbury and 
Banwell^; and on that same day he delivered to me those 
two monasteries with everything in them, together with a 
silken pallium of great value, and of incense a load for a 
strong man, adding these words, that he did not give me 
these trifling presents because he was unwilling hereafter 
to give me greater. For in the course of time he unexpect- 
edly gave me Exeter, with the whole diocese which belonged 
to him in Wessex and in Cornwall, besides gifts every day 
without number of every kind of worldly wealth ; these it 
would be too long to enumerate here, lest it should weary 
my readers. But let no one suppose that I have mentioned 
these presents in this place for the sake of glory or flattery, 
or to obtain greater honor ; I call God to witness that I 
have not done so, but that I might certify to those who are 
ignorant how profuse he was in giving. He then at once 
gave me permission to ride to those two monasteries, so full 
of all good things, and afterwards to return to my own. 

82. The Siege of Paris.^ — In the year of our Lord's incar- 
nation 886, which was the thirty-eighth of King Alfred's 
life, the army so often mentioned again fled the country, 
and went into that of the West Franks. Entering the 
river Seine with their vessels, they sailed up it as far as the 
city of Paris ; there they wintered, pitching their camp on 
both sides of the river almost to the bridge, in order that 
they might prevent the citizens from crossing the bridge — 
since the city occupies a small island in the middle of the 

1 Both in Somersetshire ; these monasteries are otherwise unknown. 

2 Largely from the Chronicle. 


stream. They besieged the city for a whole year, but, by 
the merciful favor of God, and by reason of the brave 
defense of the citizens, they could not force their way inside 
the walls. 

83. Alfred rebuilds London.^ — In that same year Alfred, 
King of the Anglo-Saxons, after the burning of cities and 
massacres of the people, honorably rebuilt the city of 
London, made it habitable, and gave it into the custody of 
-(Ethelred, Ealdorman of Mercia. To this king^ all the 
Angles and Saxons who hitherto had been dispersed every- 
where, or were in captivity with the heathen,* voluntarily 
turned, and submitted themselves to his rule.* 

84. The Danes leave Paris. ^ — In the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 887, which was the thirty-ninth of King Alfred's 
life, the above-mentioned army of the heathen, leaving the 
city of Paris uninjured, since otherwise they could get no 
advantage, passed under the bridge and rowed their j&eet 
up the river Seine for a long distance, until they reached 
the mouth of the river Marne ; here they left the Seine, 
entered the mouth of the Marne, and, sailing up it for a 
good distance and a good while, at length, not without 
labor, arrived at a place called Chezy, a royal vill, where 
they wintered a whole year. In the following year they 
entered the mouth of the river Yonne, not without doing 
much damage to the country, and there remained one year. 

85. Division of the Empire.^ — In that same year Charles,'' 
King of the Franks, went the way of all flesh ; but Arnolf , 

1 Largely from the Chronicle. 2 Namely, Alfred. 

8 A mistranslation from the Chronicle; it should read, ' were not in 
captivity,' etc. 

* Here follows Camden's famous (forged ?) interpolation about 
Grimbald and Oxford. ^ From the Chronicle, 

6 Much expanded from the Chronicle. '' Charles the Fat. 


his brother's son, six weeks before he died, had expelled 
him from the kingdom. Immediately after his death five 
kings were ordained, and the kingdom was split into five 
parts ; but the principal seat of the kingdom justly and 
deservedly fell to Arnolf, were it not that he had shame- 
fully sinned against his uncle. The other four kings prom- 
ised fidelity and obedience to Arnolf, as was meet; for 
none of these four kings was heir to the kingdom on his 
father's side, as was Arnolf; therefore, though the five 
kings were ordained immediately upon the death of Charles, 
yet the Empire remained to Arnolf. Such, then, was the 
division of that realm ; Arnolf received the countries to 
the east of the river Rhine ; Rudolf the inner part of the 
kingdom ^ ; Odo the western part ; Berengar and Wido, 
Lombardy, and those countries which are on that side of 
the mountain. But they did not keep such and so great 
dominions in peace among themselves, for they twice 
fought a pitched battle, and often mutually ravaged those 
kingdoms, and drove one another out of their dominions. 

86. Alfred sends Alms to Rome.^ — In the same year in 
which that army left Paris and went to Chezy,' j3Ethel- 
helm, Ealdorman of Wiltshire, carried to Rome the alms 
of King Alfred and of the Saxons. 

87. Alfred begins to translate from Latin.* — In that same 
year also the oft-mentioned Alfred, King of the Anglo- 
Saxons, by divine inspiration first began, on one and the 
same day, to read and to translate ; but that this may be 
clearer to those who are ignorant, I will relate the cause of 
this long delay in beginning. 

88. Alfred's Manual.^ — On a certain day we were both of 
us sitting in the king's chamber, talking on all kinds of 

1 Burgundy. 2 Chiefly from the Chronicle. 

3 Cf. chap. 84. * Original. ^ Original. 


subjects, as usual, and it happened that I read to him a 
quotation out of a certain book. Wliile he was listening to 
it attentively with both ears, and pondering it deeply with 
his inmost mind, he suddenly showed me a little book^ 
which he carried in his bosom, wherein were written the 
daily course, together with certain Psalms and prayers 
which he had read in his youth, and thereupon bade me 
write the quotation in that book. Hearing this, and per- 
ceiving in part his active intelligence and goodness of 
heart, together with his devout resolution of studying 
divine wisdom, I gave, though in secret, yet with hands 
uplifted to heaven, boundless thanks to Almighty God, who 
had implanted such devotion to the study of wisdom in the 
king's heart. But since I could find no blank space in that 
book wherein to write the quotation, it being all full of 
various matters, I delayed a little, chiefly that I might stir 
up the choice understanding of the king to a higher knowl- 
edge of the divine testimonies. Upon his urging me to 
make haste and write it quickly, I said to him, < Are you 
willing that I should write that quotation on some separate 
leaf ? Perhaps we shall find one or more other such which 
will please you ; and if that should happen, we shall be glad 
that we have kept this by itself.' 'Your plan is good,' 
said he ; so I gladly made haste to get ready a pamphlet 
of four leaves, at the head of which I wrote what he had 
bidden me ; and that same day I wrote in it, at his request, 
and as I had predicted, no less than three other quotations 
which pleased him. From that time we daily talked 
together, and investigated the same subject by the help of 
other quotations which we found and which pleased him, 
so that the pamphlet gradually became full, and deservedly 
so, for it is written, 'The righteous man builds upon a 
1 Cf. chap. 24. 


moderate foundation, and by degrees passes to greater 
things.' ^ Thus, like a most productive bee, flying far and 
wide, and scrutinizing the fenlands, he eagerly and unceas- 
ingly collected various flowers of Holy Scripture, with 
which he copiously stored the cells of his mind.^ 

89. Alfred's Handbook.^ — When that first quotation had 
been copied, he was eager at once to read, and to translate 
into Saxon, and then to teach many others — even as we 
are assured concerning that happy thief who recognized 
the Lord Jesus Christ, his Lord, aye, the Lord of all men, 
as he was hanging on the venerable gallows of the holy 
cross, and, with trustful petition, casting down of his body no 
more than his eyes, since he was so entirely fastened with 
nails that he could do nothing else, cried with humble 
voice, ' Christ, remember me when thou comest into thy 
kingdom ! ' * — since it was only on the cross that he began to 
learn the elements of the Christian faith.^ Inspired by God, 
he began the rudiments of Holy Scripture on the sacred feast 
of St. Martin.® Then he went on, as far as he was able, to 
learn the flowers'' collected from various quarters by any 
and all of his teachers, and to reduce them into the form of 
one book, although jumbled together, until it became almost 
as large as a psalter. This book he called his Enchiridion ^ 

1 Author unknown. s Original. 

2 Cf. chap. 76. • 4 Luke 23. 42. 

6 The following phrases, introduced at this point, seem to be cor- 
rupt : Hie aut aliter, quamvia dissimili modo, in regia potestate. 

6 November 11. 

'' Alfred calls the passages which he translated from St. Augustine's 
Soliloquies by the name of 'flowers' or 'blossoms' (blostman). See 
Hargrove's edition (Yale Studies in English XIII), and his version into 
modern English (Yale Studies in English XXII). 

8 The application of the word to a work of St. Augustine's gave it 
great currency in the Frankish Latin of the period. 


or Handbook,^ because he carefully kept it at hand day 
and night, and found, as he then used to say, no small 
consolation therein. 

90. Illustration from the Penitent Thief. '^ — But, as it was 
written by a wise man,' 

Of watchful minds are they whose pious care 
It is to govern well, 

I see that I must be especially watchful, in that I just now 
drew a kind of comparison, though in dissimilar manner,* 
between the happy thief and the king ; for the cross is 
hateful to every one in distress.^ But what can he do, if he 
cannot dislodge himself or escape thence ? or in what way 
can he improve his condition by remaining there? He 
must, therefore, whether he will or no, endure with pain 
and sorrow that which he is suffering. 

91. Alfred's Troubles.* — Now the king was pierced with 
many nails of tribulation, though established in the royal 
sway; for from the twentieth year of his age to the present 
year, which is his forty -fifth,'' he has been constantly afflicted 
with most severe attacks of an unknown disease, so that 
there is not a single hour in which he is not either suffer- 
ing from that malady, or nigh to despair by reason of 
the gloom which is occasioned by his fear of it. Moreover 
the constant invasions of foreign nations, by which he was 
continually harassed by land and sea, without any interval 
of quiet, constituted a sufficient cause of disturbance. 

What shall I say of his repeated expeditions against 
the heathen, his wars, and the incessant occupations of 

1 The Handbook seems to have been known to William of Malmes- 
bury (d. 1143); cf. his Gesta Pontijicum, pp. 333, 336. 

2 Original. ^ Unknown. * Cf. note 5, chap. 89. 

6 . . . iinicuique ubicumque male habet. * Original. '' Cf . chap. 74. 


government ? Of the daily ... of the ^ nations which dwell 
on ^ the Tyrrhene ^ Sea to the farthest end of Ireland ? For 
we have seen and read letters, accompanied with presents, 
which were sent to him from Jerusalem by the patriarch 
Elias.'* What shall I say of his restoration of cities and 
towns, and of others which he built where none had been 
before ? of golden and silver buildings,** built in incompa- 
rable style under his direction? of the royal halls and 
chambers, wonderfully erected of stone and wood at his 
command ? of the royal vills constructed of stones removed 
from their old site, and finely rebuilt by the king's com- 
mand in more fitting places? 

Not to speak of the disease above mentioned, he was 
disturbed by the quarrels of his subjects,® who would of 
their own choice endure little or no toil for the common 
need of the kingdom. He alone, sustained by the divine 

1 MS. corrupt : Be cotidiana nationum. 

2 This makes no sense ; yet the Latin is : quce in Tyrreno mari usque 
ultimum HibernicBfinem habitant. 

8 Cf. chap. 70. 

* Perhaps Elias III, patriarch from about 879 to 907 ; the MS. reads 
Abel. Stevenson's emendation is supported by the fact that certain 
medical recipes are related to have been sent to Alfred by the patriarch 
Elias (Cockayne, LeecMoms 2. 290). 

5 Stevenson says : ' Possibly he intended to refer to the use of the pre- 
cious metals in sacred edifices. We are told, on the doubtful authority 
of William of Malmesbury, that King Ine built a chapel of gold and 
silver at Glastonbury. A ninth-century writer records that Ansegis, 
abbot of Fontenelle, 806-833, partly decorated a spire of the abbey v?ith 
gilt metal, and another writer of that period mentions the golden doors 
of the " basilica" of St. Alban in his description of the imperial palace 
at Ingelheim. Giraldus Cambrensis ascribes the use of golden roofs or 
roof-crests to the Romans at Caerleon-ouyUsk. The idea that a king's 
palace ought to be decorated with the precious metals is probably an 
outcome of the late Roman rhetoric and Byzantine magnificence.' 

8 The early part of the sentence is corrupt in the MS. 


aid, once he had assumed the helm of government, strove 
in every way, like a skilful pilot, to steer ^ his ship, laden 
with much wealth, into the safe and longed-for harbor of 
his country, though almost all his crew were weary, suffer- 
ing them not to faint or hesitate, even amid the waves 
and manifold whirlpools of this present life. Thus his 
bishops, earls, nobles, favorite thanes, and prefects, who, 
next to God and the king, had the whole government of 
the kingdom, as was fitting, continually received from him 
instruction, compliment, exhortation, and command; nay, 
at last, if they were disobedient, and his long patience was 
exhausted, he would reprove them severely, and censure 
in every way their vulgar folly and obstinacy; and thus 
he wisely gained and bound them to his own wishes and 
the common interests of the whole kingdom. But if, owing 
to the sluggishness of the people, these admonitions of the 
king were either not fulfilled, or were begun late at the 
moment of necessity, and so, because they were not carried 
through, did not redound to the advantage of those who 
put them in execution — take as an example the fortresses 
which he ordered, but which are not yet begun or, begun 
late, have not yet been completely finished — when hostile 
forces have made invasions by sea, or land, or both, then 
those who had set themselves against the imperial orders 
have been put to shame and overwhelmed with vain repent- 
ance. I speak of vain repentance on the authority of 
Scripture, whereby numberless persons have had cause for 
sorrow when they have been smitten by great harm through 
the perpetration of deceit. But though by this means, sad 
to say, they may be bitterly afflicted, and roused to grief by 
the loss of fathers, wives, children, thanes, man servants, 
maid servants, products, and all their household stuff, 
1 The figure is found as early as Sophocles and Aristophanes. 


what is the use of hateful repentance when their kinsmen 
are dead, and they cannot aid them, or redeem from dire 
captivity those who are captive ? for they cannot even help 
themselves when they have escaped, since they have not 
wherewithal to sustain their own lives. Sorely exhausted 
by a tardy repentance, they grieve over their carelessness 
in despising the king's commands ; they unite in praising 
his wisdom, promising to fulfil with all their might what 
before they had declined to do, namely, in the construction 
of fortresses, and other things useful to the whole kingdom. 
92. Alfred builds two Monasteries.^ — Concerning his desire 
and intent of excellent meditation, which, in the midst 
both of prosperity and adversity, he never in any way 
neglected, I cannot in this place with advantage forbear to 
speak. For, when he was reflecting, according to his wont, 
upon the need of his soul,*^ he ordered, among the other 
good deeds to which his thoughts were by night and day ' 
especially turned, that two monasteries should be built, 
one of them being for monks at Athelney.* This is a place 
surrounded by impassable fens and waters on every hand, 
where no one can enter but by boats, or by a bridge labo- 
riously constructed between two fortresses, at the western 
end of which bridge was erected a strong citadel, of beauti- 
ful work, by command of the aforesaid king. In this mon- 
astery he collected monks of all kinds from every quarter, 
and there settled them. 

^ Original. 

* This corresponds to the OE. sawle J>earf. 

2 The Latin has : inter cetera diutuma et noctuma bona. Stevenson 
does not emend, but it seems as though we should read diurna. Com- 
pare, for example, in Stevenson's edition, 78. 14, 35, 39; 99. 10; 
100. 11; 103. 9. 

* Cf . chap. 55. The second monastery was for nuns, and at Shaftes- 
bury ; see chap. 98. 


93. Monasticism was decayed.^ — At first he had no one of 
his own nation, noble and free by birth, who was willing 
to enter the monastic life, except children, who as yet could 
neither choose good nor reject evil by reason of their tender 
years. This was the case because for many years previous 
the love of a monastic life had utterly decayed in that as 
well as in many other nations; for, though many monas- 
teries still remain in that country, yet no one kept the rule 
of that kind of life in an orderly way, whether because of 
the invasions of foreigners, which took place so frequently 
both by sea and land, or because that people abounded in 
riches of every kind, and so looked with contempt on the 
monastic life. On this account it was that King Alfred 
sought to gather monks of different kinds in the same 

94. Monks brought from beyond Sea.^ — First he placed 
there John ^ the priest and monk, an Old Saxon by birth, 
making him abbot ; and then certain priests and deacons 
from beyond sea. Finding that he had not so large a num- 
ber of these as he wished, he procured as many as possible 
of the same Grallic race*; some of whom, being children, 
he ordered to be taught in the same monastery, and at a 
later period to be admitted to the monastic habit. I have 
myself seen there in monastic dress a young man of heathen 
birth who was educated in that monastery, and by no 
means the hindmost of them all. 

95. A Crime committed at Athelney.^ — There was a crime 
committed once in that monastery, which I would <not>,^ 
by my silence, utterly consign to oblivion, although it is 
an atrocious villainy, for throughout the whole of Scripture 

1 Original. * Cf. chap. 78. 

2 Original. ^ Original. 

8 Cf. chap. 78. * Supplied by Stevenson. 


the base deeds of the wicked are interspersed among the 
reverend actions of the righteous, like tares and cockle 
among the wheat. Good deeds are recorded that they may 
be praised, imitated, and emulated, and that those who pur- 
sue them may be held worthy of all honor j and wicked 
deeds, that they may be censured, execrated, and avoided, 
and their imitators be reproved with all odium, contempt, 
and vengeance. 

96. The Plot of a Priest and a Deacon.^ — Once upon a time, 
a certain priest and a deacon, Gauls by birth, of the num- 
ber of the aforesaid monks, by the instigation of the devil, 
and roused by jealousy, became so embittered in secret 
against their abbot, the above-mentioned John, that, after 
the manner of the Jews, they circumvented and betrayed 
their master. For they so wrought upon two hired servants 
of the same Gallic race that in the night, when all men 
were enjoying the sweet tranquillity of sleep, they should 
make their way into the church armed, and, shutting it 
behind them as usual, hide themselves there, and wait till 
the abbot should enter the church alone. At length, when, 
as was his wont, he should secretly enter the church by 
himself to pray, and, bending his knees, bow before the 
holy altar, the men should fall upon him, and slay him on 
the spot. They should then drag his lifeless body out of 
the church, and throw it down before the house of a certain 
harlot, as if he had been slain whilst on a visit to her. 
This was their device, adding crime to crime, as it is 
said, ' The last error shall be worse than the first.' ''■ But 
the divine mercy, which is always wont to aid the inno- 
cent, frustrated in great part the evil design of those evil 
men, so that it did not turn out in all respects as they had 

1 Original. » Matt. 27. 64. 


97. The Execution of the Plot.^ — When, therefore, the 
whole of the evil teaching had been explained by those 
wicked teachers to their wicked hearers, and enforced upon 
them, the night having come and being favorable, the two 
armed ruffians, furnished with a promise of impunity, shut 
themselves up in the church to await the arrival of the 
abbot. In the middle of the night John, as usual, entered 
the church to pray, without any one's knowledge, and 
knelt before the altar. Thereupon the two ruffians rushed 
upon him suddenly with drawn swords, and wounded him 
severely. But he, being ever a man of keen mind, and, as 
I have heard say, not unacquainted with the art of fighting, 
if he had not been proficient in better lore, no sooner heard 
the noise of the robbers, even before he saw them, than he 
rose up against them before he was wounded, and, shouting 
at the top of his voice, struggled against them with all 
his might, crying out that they were devils and not mei: — 
and indeed he knew no better, as he thought that no men 
would dare to attempt such a deed. He was, however, 
wounded before any of his monks could come up. They, 
roused by the noise, were frightened when they heard the 
word 'devils' ; being likewise unfamiliar with such struggles, 
they, and the two who, after the manner of the Jews, were 
traitors to their lord, rushed toward the doors of the church ; 
but before they got there those ruffians escaped with all 
speed, and secreted themselves in the fens near by, leaving 
the abbot half dead. The monks raised their nearly lifeless 
superior, and bore him home with grief and lamentations ; 
nor did those two knaves shed tears less than the innocent. 
But God's mercy did not allow so horrible a crime to pass 
unpunished : the desperadoes who perpetrated it, and all 
who urged them to it, were seized and bound ; then, by 
1 Original. 


various tortures, they died a shameful death. Let us now 
return to our main narrative. 

98. The Convent at Shaftesbury.^ — Another ^ monastery 
also was built by the aforesaid king as a residence for 
nuns, near the eastern gate of Shaftesbury ; and over it he 
placed as abbess his own daughter ^thelgivu, a virgin 
dedicated to God. With her many other noble ladies, serv- 
ing God in the monastic life, dwell in that convent. These 
two edifices were enriched by the king with much land, 
and with all sorts of wealth. 

99. Alfred divides his Time and his Revenues.' — These 
things being thus disposed of, the king considered within 
himself, as was his practice, what more would conduce to 
religious meditation. What he had wisely begun and use- 
fully conceived was adhered to with even more beneficial 
result ; for he had long before heard out of the' book of the 
law that the Lord* had promised to restore to him the 
tenth many times over; and he knew that the Lord had 
faithfully kept His promise, and had actually restored to 
him the tithe manyfold. Encouraged by this precedent, 
and wishing to surpass the practice of his predecessors, he 
vowed humbly and faithfully to devote to God half his 
services, by day and by night, and also half of all the 
wealth which lawfully and justly came every year into his 
possession ; and this vow, as far as human discretion can 
perceive and keep, he skilfully and wisely endeavored to 
fulfil. But that he might, with his usual caution, avoid 
that which Scripture warns us against, 'If thou offerest 
aright, but dost not divide aright, thou sinnest,' * he con- 
sidered how he might divide aright that which he had 

1 Original. s Original. 

2 Cf . chap. 92. * This passage is somewhat corrupt, 
fi Gren. 4. 7, in the old Latin version, following the Septuagint. 


joyfully vowed to God; and as Solomon had said, 'The 
king's heart is in the hand of the Lord ' ^ — that is, his 
counsel — he ordered with a divinely inspired policy, which 
could come only from above, that his officers should first 
divide into two parts the revenues of every year. 

100. The Threefold Division of Officers at Court.^ — After 
this division had been made, he assigned the first part to 
worldly uses, and ordered that one third of it should be 
paid to his soldiers and to his officers, the nobles who dwelt 
by turns at court, where they discharged various duties, for 
thus it was that the king's household was arranged at all 
times in three shifts,^ in the following manner. The king's 
attendants being wisely distributed into three companies, 
the first company was on duty at court for one month, 
night and day, at the end of which they were relieved by 
the second company, and returned to their homes for two 
months, where they attended to their own affairs. At the 
end of the second month, the third company relieved the 
second, who returned to their homes, where they spent 
two months. The third company then gave place to the 
first, and in their turn spent two months at home. And in 
this order the rotation of service at the king's court was 
at all times carried on. 

101. The Distribution for Secular Purposes.* — To these, 
therefore, was paid the first of the three portions aforesaid, 
to each according to his standing and peculiar service ; the 
second to the workmen whom he had collected from many 
nations and had about him in large numbers, men skilled 
in every kind of building; the third portion was assigned 

1 Prov. 21. 1. 2 Original. 

* Cf . the Chronicle under 894 : ' The King had divided his forces 
into two, so that one half was constantly at home, the other half in the 
field.' * Original. 


to foreigners who came to him out of every nation far and 
near ; whether they asked money of him or not, he cheer- 
fully gave to each with wonderful munificence according 
to their respective worthiness/ exemplifying what is 
written, ' God loveth a cheerful giver.' ^ 

102. The Distribution for Religious Purposes.' — But the 
second part of all his revenues, wliich came yearly into his 
possession, and was included in the receipts of the excheq- 
uer, as I mentioned just above, he with full devotion dedi- 
cated to God, ordering his ofiicers to divide it carefully into 
four equal parts with the provision that the first part 
should be discreetly bestowed on the poor of every nation 
who came to him •, on this subject he said that, as far as 
human discretion could guarantee, the remark of Pope 
Gregory on the proper division of alms should be followed, 
* Give not little to whom you should give much, nor much 
to whom little, nor nothing to whom something, nor some- 
thing to whom nothing.'* The second share to the two 
monasteries which he had built, and to those who were 
serving God in them, as I have described more at length 
above. The third to the school * which he had studiously 
formed from many of the nobility of his own nation, but also 
from boys of mean condition. The fourth to the neighbor- 
ing monasteries in all Wessex and Mercia, and also during 
some years, in turn, to the churches and servants of God 
dwelling in Wales, Cornwall,' Gaul,'' Brittany, Northumbria, 

1 Or, ' rank ' (dignitatem), as in line 3 of the chapter. 

2 2 Cor. 9. 7. 8 Original. 

* Incorrectly quoted from the Pastoral Care 3. 20 : ' Ne qusedam 
quihus nulla, ne nulla quibus qusedam, ne multa quibus pauca, ne pauca 
praebeant quibus impendere multa debuerunt.' 

6 See chaps. 75 and 76. '' See chaps. 78 and 94. 

8 See chaps. 74 and' 81. 


and sometimes, too, in Ireland; according to his means, 
he either distributed to them beforehand, or agreed to 
contribute afterwards, if life and prosperity did not 
fail him. 

103. Alfred's Dedication of Personal Service.^ — When the 
king had arranged all these matters in due order, he remem- 
bered the text of holy Scripture which says, ' Whosoever 
will give alms, ought to begin from himself,' ^ and prudently 
began to reflect what he could offer to God from the service 
of his body and mind; for he proposed to offer to God 
no less out of this than he had done of external riches.' 
Accordingly, he promised, as far as his infirmity and his 
means would allow, to render to God the half of his serv- 
ices, bodily and mental, by night and by day,* voluntarily, 
and with all his might. Inasmuch, however, as he could 
not distinguish with accuracy the lengths of the night 
hours in any way, on account of the darkness, nor fre- 
quently those of the day, on account of the thick clouds 
and rains, he began to consider by what regular means, 
free from uncertainty, relying on the mercy of God, he 
might discharge the promised tenor of his vow undeviat- 
ingly until his death. 

104. Alfred's Measure of Time.* — After long reflection on 
these things, he at length, by a useful and shrewd invention, 
commanded his clerks ® to supply wax in sufficient quantity, 
and to weigh it in a balance against pennies. When enough 
wax was measured out to equal the weight of seventy -two 

1 Original. 

2 Not from the Bible, but from St. Augustine's Enchiridion de Fide, 
chap. 20 : ' Qui enim vult ordinate dare eleemosynam, a se ipso debet 
incipere. ' 

3 Reading divitiis for the divinis of the text. 

* Cf. chap. 99. 5 Original. ^ Or, ' chaplains.' See p. 41, note 5. 


pence, he caused the clerks to make six candles thereof, all 
of equal weight, and to mark off twelve inches as the 
length of each candle.^ By this plan, therefore, those six 
caudles burned for twenty -four hours, a night and a day, 
without fail, before the sacred relics of many of God's 
elect, which always accompanied him wherever he went. 
Sometimes, however, the candles could not continue burn- 
ing a whole day and night, till the same hour when they 
were lighted the preceding evening, by reason of the vio- 
lence of the winds, which at times blew day and night 
without intermission through the doors and windows "^ of 
the churches, the sheathing, and the wainscot,' the numer- 
ous chinks in the walls, or the thin material of the tents ; 
on such occasions it was unavoidable that they should burn 
out and finish their course before the appointed hour. The 
king, therefore, set himself to consider by what means he 
might shut out the wind, and by a skilful and cunning 
invention ordered a lantern to be beautifully constructed 
of wood and ox-horn, since white ox-horns, when shaved 
thin, are as transparent as a vessel of glass. Into this 

^ 'As these six candles weighed 72 pennyweights, each one was of 
the weight of 12d. The weight of the OE. penny was 22^ Troy grains, 
so that each candle would weigh roughly | oz. avoirdupois. As the 
candles were twelve inches long, they would be very thin in proportion 
to their length. A modern beeswax candle burns at a considerably 
quicker rate than is here assumed, but we do not think this condemns 
the figures given in this chapter as imaginary. The candle of Alfred's 
time was probably not moulded, and the wick would not be made of 
cotton, as in the modern ones. Rushes, tow, and the hards of flax were 
used for wicks. Aldhelm refers to the use of linen or flax wicks, but 
also to those made of rushes. It is therefore hardly possible to repro- 
duce the candles used by Alfred for the purpose of testing this chap- 
ter' (Stevenson). 

2 Reading /ejiesims for the fenestraruni of the text. 

8 Meanings doubtful. 


lantern, then, wonderfully made of wood and horn, as I 
before said, a candle was put at night, which shone as 
brightly without as within, and was not disturbed by the 
wind, since he had also ordered a door of horn to be made 
for the opening of the lantern,^ By this contrivance, then, 
six candles, lighted in succession, lasted twenty-four hours, 
neither more nor less. When these were burned out, others 
were lighted. 

105. Alfred judges the Poor with Equity.'^ — When all these 
things were properly arranged, the king, eager to hold to 
the half of his daily service, as he had vowed to God, and 
more also, if his ability on the one hand, and his malady 
on the other, would allow him, showed himself a minute 
investigator of the truth in all his judgments, and this 
especially for the sake of the poor, to whose interest, day 
and night, among other duties of this life, he was ever 
wonderfully attentive. For in the whole kingdom the poor, 
besides him, had few or no helpers ; for almost all the 
powerful and noble of that country had turned their 
thoughts rather to secular than to divine things : each was 
more bent on worldly business, to his own profit, than on 
the common weal. 

106. His Correction of Unjust and Incompetent Judges.^ — 
He strove also, in his judgments, for the benefit of both 

1 ' Ducange objected that horn lanterns were known to the Greeks 
and Romans long before Alfred's time. But the passages adduced by 
Salmasius, to whom he refers, and such others as we have been able 
to gather, do not clearly describe a horn lantern lit by a candle, but 
rather screens formed of horn to place round oil lamps. It is possible, 
therefore, that Alfred may really be the inventor of the horn lantern 
as we know it. The door in the side, which would be rendered neces- 
sary by the change of the candles every four hours, is here described, 
and seems to be a new feature' (Stevenson). 

2 Original. 


Ms nobles and commons, who often quarreled fiercely 
among themselves at the meetings of the ealdormen and 
sheriffs, so that hardly one of them admitted the justice 
of what had been decided by these ealdormen and sheriffs. 
In consequence of this pertinacious and obstinate dissen- 
sion, all felt constrained to give sureties to abide by the 
decision of the king, and both parties hastened to carry 
out their engagements. But if any one was conscious of 
injustice on his side in the suit, though by law and agree- 
ment he was compelled, however reluctant, to come for 
judgment before a judge like this, yet with his own good 
will he never would consent to come. For he knew that in 
that place no part of his evil practice would remain hidden; 
and no wonder, for the king was a most acute investigator 
in executing his judgments, as he was in all other things. 
He inquired into almost all the judgments which were 
given in his absence, throughout all his dominion, whether 
they were just or unjust. If he perceived there was iniquity 
in those judgments, he would, of his own accord, mildly 
ask those judges, either in his own person, or throiigh 
others who were in trust with him, why they had judged 
so unjustly, whether through ignorance or malevolence — 
that is, whether for the love or fear of any one, the hatred 
of another, or the desire of some one's money. At length, 
if the judges acknowledged they had given such judgment 
because they knew no better, he discreetly and moderately 
reproved their inexperience and folly in such terms as 
these : ' I greatly wonder at your assurance, that whereas, 
by God's favor and mine, you have taken upon you the 
rank and office of the wise, you have neglected the studies 
and labors of the wise. Either, therefore, at once give up 
the administration of the earthly powers which you possess, 
or endeavor more zealously to study the lessons of wisdom. 


Such are my commands.' At these words the ealdormen 
and sheriffs would be filled with terror at being thus severely 
corrected, and would endeavor to turn with all their might 
to the study of justice, so that, wonderful to say, almost all 
his ealdormen, sheriffs, and officers, though unlearned from 
childhood, gave themselves up to the study of letters, choos- 
ing rather to acquire laboriously an unfamiliar discipline 
than to resign their functions. But if any one, from old age 
or the sluggishness of an untrained mind, was unable to 
make progress in literary studies, he would order his son, 
if he had one, or one of his kinsmen, or, if he had no one 
else, his own freedman or servant, whom he had long before 
advanced to the office of reading, to read Saxon books 
before him night and day, whenever he had any leisure. 
And then they would lament with deep sighs from their 
inmost souls that in their youth they had never attended to 
such studies. They counted happy the youth of the present 
day, who could be delightfully instructed in the liberal 
arts, while they considered themselves wretched in that 
they had neither learned these things in their youth, nor, 
now they were old, were able to do so. This skill of young 
and old in acquiring letters, I have set forth as a means of 
characterizing the aforesaid king. 



Alfred's Preface to his translation of Gregory's 
Pastoral Care 


King Alfred bids greet Bishop Wserferth with his words lov- 
ingly and with friendship ; and I let it be known to thee that it 
has very often come into my mind what wise men there formerly 
were throughout England, both of sacred and secular orders ; 
and what happy times there were then throughout England ; and 
how the kings who had power over the nation in those days 
obeyed God and His ministers ; how they preserved peace, morality, 
and order at home, and at the same time enlarged their terri- 
tory abroad ; and how they prospered both with war and with 
wisdom; and also how zealous the sacred orders were both in 
teaching and learning, and in all the services they owed to God ; 
and how foreigners came to this land in search of wisdom and 
instruction, and how we should now have to get them from 
abroad if we were to have them. So general was its decay in 
England that there were very few on this side of the Humber 
who could understand their rituals in English, or translate a letter 
from Latin into English ; and I believe that there were not many 
beyond the Humber. There were so few of them that I cannot 
remember a single one south of the Thames when I came to the 
throne. Thanks be to Almighty God that we have any teachers 
among us now. And therefore I command thee to do as I believe 
thou art willing, to disengage thyself from worldly matters as often 
as thou canst, that thou mayest apply the wisdom which God has 
given thee wherever thou canst. Consider what punishments would 
come upon us on account of this world, if we neither loved it [wis- 
dom] ourselves nor suffered other men to obtain it : we should love 

^ The name of the diocese and of the bishop of course varied in 
the different copies. 



the name only of Christian, and very few the virtues. When I 
considered all this, I remembered also that I saw, before it had been 
all ravaged and burned, how the churches throughout the whole of 
England stood filled with treasures and books; and there was also a 
great multitude of God's servants, but they had very little knowl- 
edge of the books, for they could not understand anything of them, 
because they were not written in their own language. As if they 
had said: ' Our forefathers, who formerly held these places, loved 
wisdom, and through it they obtained wealth and bequeathed it to 
us. In this we can still see their tracks, but we cannot follow 
them, and therefore we have lost both the wealth and the wisdom, 
because we would not incline our hearts after their example.' 
When I remembered all this, I wondered extremely that the good 
and wise men who were formerly all over England, and had per- 
fectly learned all the books, had not wished to translate them into 
their own lang-uage. But again I soon answered myself and said : 
' They did not think that men would ever be so careless, and that 
learning would so decay; through that desire they abstained from 
it, since they wished that the wisdom in this land might increase 
with our knowledge of languages.' Then I remembered how the 
law was first known in Hebrew, and again, when the Greeks 
had learned it, they translated the whole of it into their own lan- 
guage, and all other books besides. And again the Romans, when 
they had learned them, translated the whole of them by learned 
interpreters into their own language. And also all other Christ- 
ian nations translated a part of them into their own language. 
Therefore it seems better to me, if you think so, for us also 
to translate some books which are most needful for all men to 
know into the language which we can all understand, and for 
you to do as we very easily can if we have tranquillity enough, 
that is, that all the youth now in England of free men, who are 
rich enough to be able to devote themselves to it, be set to 
learn as long as they are not fit for any other occupation, until 
they are able to read English writing well: and let those be 
afterwards taught more in the Latin language who are to con- 
tinue in learning, and be promoted to a higher rank. When I 
remembered how the knowledge of Latin had formerly decayed 
throughout England, and yet many could read English writing, 
I began, among other various and manifold troubles of this 


kingdom, to translate into English the book which is called in 
Latin Pastoralis, and in English Shepherd's Book, sometimes word 
by word, and sometimes according to the sense, as I had learned it 
from Plegmund my archbishop, and Asser my bishop, and Grim- 
bald my mass-priest, and John my mass-priest. And when I had 
learned it as I could best understand it, and as I could most clearly 
interpret it, I translated it into English; and I will send a copy 
to every bishopric in my kingdom; and in each there is a book- 
mark worth fifty mancuses.^ And I command in God's name that 
no man take the book-mark from the book, or the book from the 
monastery. It is uncertain how long there may be such learned 
bishops as now, thanks be to God, there are nearly everywhere ; 
therefore I wish them^ always to remain in their places, unless the 
bishop wish to take them with him, or they be lent out anywhere, 
or any one be making a copy from them. 

1 Cf. p. 11, note 2. 2 The books. 


Letter from Fulco, Archbishop of Rheims and Primate 
OF the Franks, and legatus natus of the Apostolic 
See, to Alfred, the most Christian King of the 

To Alfred, the most glorious and most Christian King of the 
Angles, Fulco, by the gi-ace of God Archbishop of Rheims, and 
servant of the servants of God, wisheth both the sceptre of tem- 
poral dominion, ever triumphant, and the eternal joys of the king- 
dom of heaven. 

And first of all we give thanks to our Lord God, the Father 
of lights, and the Author of all good, from whom is every good 
gift and every perfect gift, who by the grace of His Holy Spirit 
hath not only been pleased to cause the light of His knowledge 
to shine in your heart, but also even now hath vouchsafed to 
kindle the fire of His love, by which at once enlightened and 
warmed, you earnestly tender the weal of the kingdom committed 
to you from above, by warlike achievements, vrtth divine assist- 
ance attaining or securing peace for it, and desiring to extend 
the excellency of the ecclesiastical order, which is the army of 
God. Wherefore we implore the divine mercy with unwearied 
prayers that He who hath moved and warmed yom* heart to this ' 

1 From Rev. Joseph Stevenson's translation of The Book of Hyde, in 
Church Historians of England (London, 1854), Vol. 2, Part 2, pp. 499- 
503. The translator states that the text of the letter printed by "Wise 
in his edition of Asser (see Stevenson's edition of Asser, p. 308) ' has 
been employed in correcting the many obscurities and errors of the 
copy inserted in the Liber de Hida. ' Of the letter our editor says : ' It 
. . . seems to be genuine. There is no conceivable motive for forging 
such a letter. "We can discover no grounds for Pauli's condemnation 
of it. . . . As Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, c. 122 (p. 130), states that 
Grimbald was sent to Alfred at his request by the Archbishop of 
Rheims, he would seem to have been acquainted with this letter.' 



would give eifect to your wishes, by replenishing your desire with 
good things, that in your days both peace may be multiplied to 
your kingdom and people, and that ecclesiastical order, which as 
you say hath been disturbed in many ways, either by the con- 
tinued irruptions and attacks of the pagans, or by lapse of years, 
or by the negligence of prelates, or by the ignorance of subjects, 
may by your diligence and industry be speedily reestablished, 
exalted, and diffused. 

And since you wish this to be effected chiefly through our 
assistance, and since from our see, over which St. Remigius, the 
apostle of the Franks, presides, you ask for counsel and protec- 
tion, we think that this is not done without divine impulse. And 
as formerly the nation of the Franks obtained by the same St. 
Remigius deliverance from manifold error, and the knowledge of 
the worship of the only true God, so doth the nation of the Angles 
request that it may obtain from his see and doctrine one by whom 
they may be taught to avoid superstition, to cut off superfluities, 
and to extirpate all such noxious things as bud forth from vio- 
lated custom or rude habits, and may learn, while they walk 
through the field of the Lord, to pluck the flowers, and to be upon 
their guard against the adder. 

For St. Augustine, the first bishop of your nation, sent to us 
by your apostle St. Gregory, could not in a short time set forth 
all the decrees of the holy apostles, nor did he think proper sud- 
denly to burden a rude and barbarous nation with new and 
strange enactments ; for he knew how to adapt himself to their 
infirmities, and to say with the Apostle, ' I have given milk to you 
to drink, who are babes in Christ, and not meat ' (1 Cor. 3. 2). And 
as Peter and James, who were looked upon as pillars (Gal. 2. 9), 
with Barnabas and Paul, and the rest who were met together, did 
not wish to oppress the primitive Church, which was flowing in 
from the Gentiles to the faith of Christ, with a heavier burden 
than to command them to abstain from things offered to idols, 
and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood 
(Acts 15. 29), so also do we know how matters were managed 
with you at the beginning. For they required only this for train- 
ing up the people in the knowledge of God, and turning them from 
their former barbarous fierceness, namely, that faithful and pru- 
dent sei-vants should be placed over the Lord's household, who 


should be competent to give out to each of their fellow-servants 
his dole of food in due season, that is, according to the capacity 
of each of the hearers. But in process of time, as the Christian 
religion gained strength, the holy Church felt it neither to be her 
inclination nor her duty to be satisfied with this, but to take 
example from the apostles themselves, their masters and founders, 
who, after the doctrines of the Gospel had been set forth and 
spread abroad by their heavenly Master Himself, did not deem it 
superfluous and needless, but convenient and salutary, to estab- 
lish the perfect believers by frequent epistolary exhortations, and 
to build them more firmly upon the solid foundation, and to 
impart to them more abundantly the rule as well of manners as 
of faith. 

Nevertheless, she too, whether excited by adverse circum- 
stances, or nourished by prosperous ones, never ceased to aim at 
the good of her children, whom she is daily bringing forth to Christ, 
and, inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, to promote their 
advancement, both privately and publicly. Hence the frequent 
calling of councils, not only from the neighboring cities and 
provinces, but also, in these days, from regions beyond seas ; hence 
synodal decrees so often published ; hence sacred canons, framed 
and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, by which both the Catholic 
faith is powerfully strengthened, and the unity of the Church's 
peace is inviolably guarded, and its order is decently regulated: 
which canons, as it is unlawful for any Christian to transgress, 
so it is altogether wicked, in clerk and priest especially, to be 
ignorant of them ; the wholesome observance and the religious 
handing down of which are things ever to be embraced. Seeing 
that, for the reasons above stated, all these matters have either 
not been fully made known to your nation, or have now for the 
most part failed, it hath appeared fit and proper to your Majesty 
and to your royal wisdom, by a most excellent counsel — inspired, 
as we believe, from above — both to consult us, insignificant as 
we are, on this matter, and to repair to the see of St. Remigius, 
by whose virtues and doctrine the same see or church hath always 
flourished and excelled all the churches of Gaul since his time 
in all piety and doctrine. 

And since you are unwilling to appear before us, when you 
present these your requests, without a gift and empty-handed, 


your Majesty hath deigned to honor us with a present that is both 
very necessary for the time and well suited to the matter in hand ; 
concerning which we have both praised heavenly Providence with 
admii'ation, and have returned no slender thanks to your royal 
munificence. For you have sent unto us a present of dogs, which, 
of good and excellent breed, are yet only in the body and mortal ; 
and this you do that they may drive away the fury of visible 
wolves, with which, among other scoui-ges, wielded against us by 
the righteous judgment of God, our country abounds; and you 
ask us, in return, that we should send to you certain watch- 
dogs, not corporeal, that is to say, not such as those with whom 
the prophet finds fault, saying, ' Dumb dogs, not able to bark ' 
(Isa. 56. 10), but such as the Psalmist speaks of, ' That the 
tongue of thy dogs may be red through the same ' (Ps. 68. 23), 
who know how and are qualified to make loud barkings for 
their Lord, and constantly to guard His flock with most wakeful 
and most careful watchings, and to drive away to a distance 
those most cruel wolves of unclean spirits who lie in wait to 
devour souls. 

Of which number you specially demand one from us, namely, 
Grimbald, priest and monk, to be sent for this office, and to pre- 
side over the government of the pastoral charge. To whom the 
whole Church, which hath nourished him, gives her testimony 
from his childhood, with true faith and holy religion, and which 
hath advanced him by regular steps, according to ecclesiastical 
custom, to the dignity of the priesthood. We affirm openly that 
he is most deserving of the honor of the episcopate, and that he 
is fit to teach others also. But indeed we wished that this might 
rather take place in our kingdom, and we intended some time 
ago, with Christ's permission, to accomplish it in due time, namely, 
that he whom we had as a faithful son we might have as an 
associate in our office, and a most trustworthy assistant in every- 
thing that pertained to the advantage of the Church. It is not 
without deep sorrow — forgive us for saying so — that we suf- 
fer him to be torn from us, and be removed from our eyes by so 
vast an extent of land and sea. But as love has no perception 
of loss, nor faith of injury, and no remoteness of regions can 
part those whom the tie of unfeigned affection joins together, 
we have most willingly assented to your request — for to you we 


have no power to refuse anything — nor do we grudge hiui to 
you, whose advantage we rejoice in as much as if it were our 
own, and whose profit we count as ours : for we know that in 
every place one only God is served, and that the Catholic and 
Apostolic Chm-ch is one, whether it be at Rome or in the parts 
beyond the sea. 

It is our duty, then, to make him over to you canonically ; and 
it is your duty to receive him reverentially, that is to say, in 
such way and mode as may best conduce to the glory of your 
kingdom, to the honor of the Church and our prelacy ; and to 
send him to you along with his electors, and with certain nobles 
and great personages of your kingdom, as well bishops, presbyters, 
deacons, as religious laymen also, who with their own lips promise 
and declare to us in the presence of our whole church that they 
will treat him with fitting respect during the whole course of his 
life, and that they will inviolably keep with the strictest care the 
canonical decrees and the rules of the Church, handed down to 
the Church by the apostles and by apostolic men, such as they 
could then hear from us, and afterwards learn from him their 
pastor and teacher, according to the form delivered by us to him. 
Which when they shall have done, with the divine blessing and the 
authority of St. Remigius, by our ministry and the laying on of 
hands, according to the custom of the Church, receiving him prop- 
erly ordained, and in all things fully instructed, let them conduct 
him with due honor to his own seat, glad and cheerful themselves 
that they are always to enjoy his protection, and constantly to be 
instructed by his teaching and example. 

And as the members feel a concern for each other, and when 
even one rejoices they rejoice with it, or if even one suffer all the 
other members sympathize with it, we again earnestly and spe- 
cially commend him to your Royal Highness and to your most 
provident goodness, that he may be always permitted, with imfet- 
tered authority, without any gainsaying, to teach and to carry 
into effect whatever he may discover to be fit and useful for the 
honor of the Church and the instruction of your people, according 
to the authority of the canons and the custom of our Church, lest, 
haply — which God forbid ! — any one, under the instigation of 
the devil, being moved by the impulse of spite and malevolence, 
should excite controversy or raise sedition against him. But 


should this happen, it will be your duty then to make special pro- 
vision against this, and by all means to discourage by your royal 
censure all such persons, if they should chance to show themselves, 
and check barbaric rudeness by the curb of your authority ; and 
it wiU be his duty always to consult for the salvation of the people 
committed to his pastoral skill, and rather to draw all men after 
him by love than to drive them by fear. 

May you, most illustrious, most religious, and most invincible 
king, ever rejoice and flourish in Christ the Lord of lords. 


[The numbers refer to pages.] 

Aclea, 4 

Adam, 2 

^glea, 78 

^Ifthryth, 37, 38 

^lla, 16 

^thelbald, 4, 6, 7, 11, 12 

^thelbert, 12, 13 

^thelflsed, 37 

^thelgivu, 37, 58 

JEthelhelm, 48 

^thelred (King of Wessex), 13, 
18, 19, 20, 21, 22 


^thelred (Alfred's son-in-law), 
37, 44, 45, 47 

JEthelstan (under-king of Kent), 4 

^thelstan (priest), 41 

^thelward, 37 

^thelwulf (King of Wessex), 1,2, 
4, 6, 6, 7, 10, 11, 33 

^thelwulf (Ealdorman of Berk- 
shire), 12, 19 

Alemanni, 34 

Alfred, 1, and passim 

AUer, 29 

Anarawd, 45 

Angles, 19, 47, 72. See also East 

Anglo-Saxons, 1, 8, 13, 31, 32, 34, 
35, 47, 48. See also East Saxons, 
Saxons, South Saxons, West 

Anwind, 25 

Armorica, 34. See also Brittany 

Arnolf, 47, 48 

Ashdown, 20, 22 

Ash's Hill, 20 

Asser, 1, [8, 10, 13-15, 17, 20, 21, 

27, 34, 35, 42-46, 48, 49, 61, 

52], 71 
Athelney, 28, 29, 54 
Augustine, 73 
Avon, 26 

Bagsecg, 22 

Banwell, 46 

Barnabas, 73 

Basing, 22 

Beaw, 2 

Bedwig, 2 

Beldeag, 2 

Beorhtric, 8, 9 

Beorhtwulf, 3 

Berengar, 48 

Berkshire, 1, 12, 19 

Berroc Wood, 1 

Brecknock, 44 

Bretons, 39 

Britain, 1, 13, 26, 31, 32 

British, 3 

Brittany, 60. See also Armorica 

Brockmail, 44 

Brond, 2 

Burgred, 4, 5, 18, 24 

Cserwent, 43 
Cairceri, 30 




Cairwisc, 26 

Cambridge, 25 

Canterbury, 3, 18, 41 

Carloman, 33 

Ceawlin, 1 

Ceolnoth, 18 

Ceolwald, 1 

Ceolwulf, 25, 26 

Ceorl, 3 

Cerdic, 1, 3 

Charlemagne, Charles (the Great), 
9, 34 

Charles (the Bald), 6, 11, 33, 34, 

Charles (the Fat), 47, 48 

Charles (son of Louis the Ger- 
man), 34 

Ch^zy, 47, 48 

Chippenham, 5, 26, 30 

Cirencester, 30, 31 

Coenred, 1 

Coit Maur, 28 

Cond^, 32 

Congresbury, 46 

Cornwall, 35, 46, 60 

Creoda, 1 

Cutha, 1 

Cuthwine, 1 

Cynric, 1, 3 

Cynwit, 27 

Eald-Seaxum, 33 

Ealhere, 4, 6 

Ealhmuud, 1 

Ealhstan, 6, 17 

Eanwulf, 6 

East Angles, 18 

East Anglia, 13, 16, 18, 19, 31, 32, 
33, 34 

East Frankland, 31, 32. See also 

East Saxons, 13. See also Anglo- 
Saxons, Saxons, South Saxons, 
West Saxons 

Edington, 28 

Edmund, 18 

Edward, 37, 38 

Egbert, 1 

Egbert's Stone, 28 

Elesa, 1 

Elias, 52 

England, 69, 70 

Englefield, 19 

English, 19, 69, 70, 71 

Enoch, 2 

Enosh, 2 

Eoppa, 1 

Esla, 1 

Essex, 3 

Exanceastre, 26 

Exeter, 26, 46 

Danes, [3-5, 12, 13, 16-34, 

46, 47, 55] 
Danube, 13 
David, 2 
Dene, 42, 62 
Devon, 3, 27 
Dorubernia, 3 
Durugueir, 25 
Dyfed, 27, 44 

Eadburh, 8, 9, 17 
Eafa, 1 

Fernmail, 44 

Finn, 2 

Fraena, 22 

Frankland, 31, 32, 60. See also 

East Frankland 
Franks, 6, 7, 9, 11, 31, 33, 34, 89, 

47, 68, 72, 73, 77. See also 

West Franks 
Frealaf, 2 
Freawine, 1 
Freothegar, 1 
Frisians, 33, 39 



Frithowald, 2 
Frithuwulf, 2 
Froom, 25 
Fulco, 72 
Fulham, 31 

Gaini, 17 

Gallic, 55, 56 

Gaul, 26, 28, 42, 60, 74 

Gauls, 34, 39, 56 

Geata, 2 

Germanic, 8 

Germany, 33 

Geta, 2 

Gewis, 1 

Ghent, 31 

Glywyssing, 44 

Godwulf , 2 

Goths, 3 

Great Forest, 28 

Greeks, 70 

Gregory (the Great), 41, 60, 

Grimbald, 42, 71, 75 
Gueriir, 35 
Guthrum, 25 
Gwent, 44 

Halfdene, 25, 26, 27 
Hampshire, 12, 28 
Harold, 22 
Hathra, 2 
Hebrew, 70 
Hebrews, 40 
Helised, 44 
Hemeid, 44 
Heremod, 2 
Hingwar. See Inwar 
Howel, 44 
Hud a, 5 
Humber, 16, 69 
Hwala, 2 
Hwicce, 31 

Ine, 1 
Ingild, 1 
Inwar, 27 
Ireland, 52, 61 
Irish, 39 
Itermod, 2 

James (the apostle), 73 

Jared, 2 

Jerusalem, 52 

Jews, 56, 57 

John (the Old Saxon), 42, 55, 56, 

57, 71 
Judith, 6, 7, 11, 33, 34, 36 
Jutes, 3 

Kenan, 2 

Kennet, 19 

Kent, 3, 4, 5, 12, 13, 32 

Lamech, 2 

Latin, 17, 19, 26, 28, 37, 69, 70, 71 

Leo (IV), 5 

Leonaford, 45 

Lindsey, 24 

Lombardy, 48 

London, 3, 24, 47 

Louis (the Pious), 34 

Louis (the German), 34 

Louis (the Stammerer), 33 

Louis (III), 33 

Mahalalel, 2 

Marinus, 34 

Marne, 47 

Martin, 50 

Medway, 32 

Mercia, 3, 4, 8, 17, 18, 24, 26, 36, 

37, 41, 47, 60 
Mercian, 17, 36, 41 
Mercians, 4, 5, 18, 24, 26, 41, 44, 45 
Methuselah, 2 
Meuse, 31 



Middlesex, 3 
Mid-Wales, 4 
Mouric, 44 
Mucin, 17 

Neot, 35 

Noah, 2 

Nobis, 44 

Northumbria, 17, 18, 24, 25, 26, 

Northumbrian, 10 
Northumbriaus, 16, 45 
Nottingham, 17, 18 

Odo, 48 
Offa, 8 

Old Saxon, 55 
Old Saxons, 33, 34 
Osbern, 22 
Osbert, 16 
Osburli, 2 
Oscytel, 25 
Oslac, 2 
Osric, 12 

Paris, 46, 47, 48 
Paul, 11, 73 
Pavia, 10 
Pepin, 34 
Peter, 11, 41, 73 
Picts, 25 
Plegmund, 41, 71 

Beading, 19 

Remigius, 73, 74, 76 

Repton, 24, 25 

Rheims, 72 

Rhine, 48 

Rhodri, 44, 45 

Ris, 44 

Rochester, 32 

Romans, 70 

Rome, 1, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 24, 48, 76 

Rudolf, 48 
Ruim, 5 

St. Davids, 44 

Sandwich, 4 

Saxon, 5, 7, 13, 14, 25, 26, 32, 33, 
37, 38, 41, 42, 46 

Saxon Colony, 24, 34 

Saxons, 4, 9, 23, 24, 32, 33, 47, 48. 
See also Anglo-Saxons, East 
Saxons, Old Saxons, South 
Saxons, West Saxons 

Sceaf, 2 

Sceldwea, 2 

Scheldt, 32 

Sedulius, 2 

Seine, 46, 47 

Selwood (Forest), 6, 28 

Seth, 2 

Severn, 42 

Shaftesbury, 58 

Sheppey, 3, 6 

Sherborne, 6, 12, 17 

Sidroc the Elder, 22 

Sidroc the Younger, 22 

Solomon, 40, 59 

Somerset(shire), 6, 27, 28 

South Saxons, 42. See also Anglo- 
Saxons, East Saxons, Saxons, 
West Saxons 

South Wales, 44 

Stour, 33 

Strathclyde, 25 

Stuf, 3 

Surrey, 4, 5, 12 

Sussex, 12, 42 

Taetwa, 2 

Tarrant, 25 

Tenet, 5. See also Thanet 

Teudubr, 44 

Thames, 3, 4, 19, 31, 69 

Thanet, 12. See also Tenet 



Thetford, 18 
Thornsseta, 25 
Tigguocobauc, 17 
Tyne, 25 
T^rrliene Sea, 34, 52 

Waerferth, 69. See also "Werfrith 

Wales, 4, 8, 43, 44, 60. See also 
Mid- Wales, South Wales, West- 
ern Wales 

Wantage, 1 

Wareham, 25 

Wedmore, 29 

Welsh, 1, 5, 17, 25, 26, 28, 30, 39 

Werfrith, 41. See also Wserferth 

Werwulf, 41 

Wessex, 7, 8, 42, 44, 46, 60. See 
also West Saxon (s) 

Western Wales, 42 

West Franks, 33, 34, 46 

West Saxon, 13 

West Saxons, 1, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 
15, 18, 19, 33, 41. See also 
Anglo-Saxons, East Saxons, 
Saxons, South Saxons, Wessex 

Wicganbeorg, 3 

Wido, 48 

Wig, 1 

Wight, Isle of, 3 

Wihtgar, 3 

Wihtgaraburg, 3 

Wiley, 23 

Wilton, 23 

Wiltshire, 26, 28, 48 

Wimborne Minster, 22 

Winchester, 11, 12 

Wise, 26 

Woden, 2 

Worcester, 41 

Yonne, 47 
York, 16, 18 

(o^^ ^ 


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